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Guinea junta releases prisoners as it seeks popular backing

Abdoulaye Diallo (C), ex-mayor of Kindia, stands in front of the Central Prison in Conakry on September 7, 2021, after being released with a dozen other opponents of Conde   -  
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CELLOU BINANI/AFP or licensors


Putschists in Guinea released a group of political opponents of deposed president Alpha Conde on Tuesday, as the regional bloc ECOWAS prepared to discuss the turmoil in the West African nation.

Special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya staged a coup in the mineral-rich but impoverished country on Sunday and arrested the president, sparking international condemnation.

The 83-year-old president was under fire for perceived authoritarianism, with dozens of opposition activists arrested after a violently disputed election last year.

An AFP journalist saw about 20 prisoners freed from prison in the capital Conakry on Tuesday evening, including prominent opposition activists.

Lawyers representing the detainees said that 79 people had been cleared for release in discussions with the military.

The military released a communique on Monday urging the justice ministry to accelerate the release of "political detainees".

Doumbouya on Tuesday also repeated a pledge to hold talks on forming a new government.

"The government to be installed will be that of national unity and will ensure this political transition," he tweeted.

Sunday's coup triggered broad diplomatic condemnation -- including from the United States, European Union, African Union and the West African bloc ECOWAS -- with calls for Conde's release.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is due to hold a virtual extraordinary summit to discuss the crisis on Wednesday.

Russia also said it wanted Guinean institutions restored "as soon as possible".

"We expect in any case that the interests of our businessmen... will not be affected," a Kremlin spokesman said.

Russian aluminium giant Rusal has a presence in Guinea, which is one of the world's poorest countries despite its major reserves of bauxite, a mineral used in aluminium production.

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