CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Recent clashes in Guinea's southeast forest region killed 95 and injured hundreds, a government spokesman said Wednesday, providing numbers that were significantly higher than those given last week.
The violence was partly due to the large flow of arms in the region, there was the possibility that former rebels from Liberia as well as fighters trained under a former Guinean junta leader were involved, spokesman Albert Camara told The Associated Press.
"In Guinea, there was a strong flow of weapons from neighboring countries. And this is combined with rogue elements who may have contributed to these killings," Camara said.
He specifically mentioned the threat posed by fighters from former Liberian rebel groups known as ULIMO, which opposed then-President Charles Taylor during that country's prolonged civil war, as well as fighters trained by former junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, who staged a coup in Guinea in 2008 and ruled for about a year.
"Normally these people are not violent, but I don't know if they stayed neutral this time," Camara said.
Witnesses said the violence began July 15 in a village outside N'Zerekore when members of the Guerze ethnic group beat a young Konianke man to death after accusing him of stealing from a gas station.
Some witnesses reported that victims had been beheaded with machetes.
Officials previously put the death toll at 54. Residents began burying the dead in common graves shortly after the violence stopped, fueling rumors of higher fatalities.
The International Committee for the Red Cross reported last week that it had helped transport a dozen dead bodies to a morgue and several dozen injured to the regional hospital in Nzerekore.
A statement from the organization quoted a hospital director saying casualties were "flooding in," causing local medical facilities to run out of supplies including syringes, IV fluids and bandages for wounds.
Jean-Jacques Tshamala Mbuvi, head of the ICRC's delegation in Guinea, said Wednesday that the situation remained calm in the region. He declined to provide an estimate of those killed and wounded in last week's clashes, saying that would be left to Guinean authorities.
Guinea's preparations for legislative elections in September have already sparked violent protests in Conakry. Analysts warn that the vote could be marred by ethnic violence.
Associated Press writer Robbie Corey-Boulet contributed reporting from Dakar, Senegal.