Heavy gunfire reported near Guinea’s presidential palace

Conakry: Heavy gunfire erupted early Sunday near the presidential palace in Guinea’s capital and went on for hours, witnesses said, raising security concerns in a West African nation with a long history of military power grabs and coup attempts.

The Defense Ministry later put out a statement saying that the presidential guard and other security forces had contained the threat and repelled the group of assailants.

Security and sweeping operations are continuing to restore order and peace, the statement said.

However, the statement couldn’t be independently corroborated and there was no immediate comment from President Alpha Conde. State television carried music and other programming, but made no mention of the gunfire that had echoed through the Kaloum neighbourhood of Conakry all morning.

Conde has faced mounting criticism ever since he sought a third term in office last year, saying the two-term limit didn’t apply to him because of a constitutional referendum he had put forth.

He was ultimately reelected, but the move prompted violent street demonstrations in which the opposition said dozens were killed. Conde, who is 83, now could remain in power until 2030 if he wins again in 2025.

He first came to power in 2010 in the country’s first democratic election since independence from France in 1958. Many saw his presidency as a fresh start for the country, which has been mired by decades of corrupt, authoritarian rule.

Opponents, though, say he has failed to improve the lives of Guineans, most of whom live in poverty despite the country’s vast mineral riches.

In 2011, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt after gunmen surrounded his home overnight and pounded his bedroom with rockets. Rocket-propelled grenades landed inside the compound and one of his bodyguards was killed.