Guinea's military government is bracing for what is expected to be a massive purge of its ranks.
President Lansana Conte, whose government survived a bloody coup attempt on July 4, reportedly is busily engaged in sorting out "enemies" in the ranks of the Guinean Army, which has ruled the country since deposing the successors of the late president Ahmed Sekou Toure in April 1984.
Already more than 15 Cabinet ministers, senior officials and provincial governors have been arrested.
"The big fish have been caught, but there will be more arrests," a Guinean official said.
The border remains closed to facilitate the capture of a number of unidentified alleged conspirators.
In an interview, Conte said, "We were proud of ourselves when we took over the country. Not a drop of blood was spilled. We wanted to keep it that way.
"Had their coup succeeded without killing innocent people, we would not have minded. I would have returned to Guinea even if it meant being made prisoner. However, we can never forgive them for the deaths provoked." Conte was attending a summit meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Lome, Togo, when the plotters took over the national radio and said they intended to form a new government. The plot was put down, and Conte returned.
The Guinean government officially has put the number of deaths at 18 with 229 wounded. The minister of mines, Capt. Jean Traore, said, however, "a number of the wounded have serious intestinal wounds and can be expected to die."
In a speech Sunday before a crowd of at least 100,000, the Guinean president repeatedly threatened to execute the leader of the coup attempt, former prime minister Diarra Traore, as well as his accomplices, and an undetermined number of officials of the Sekou Toure government, who he maintained were to be brought back to power if a coup had succeeded. The execution threats drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd gathered at Conakry's People's Palace.
A determining factor in the decision to proceed with executions reportedly was the apparent involvement in the plot of officials of the Sekou Toure government. Thousands of Guineans were killed or imprisoned during Sekou Toure's 25-year rule, leaving few families untouched by its repression.
In an interview yesterday, the foreign minister, Capt. Facine Toure, confirmed the president's allegation that members of the former government were involved in the failed coup try, saying "some of the 30 dignitaries [of the Sekou Toure government] released last May were behind the coup."