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16.06.2005 General News

Police/Army open fire at Prestea

Ghanaian Chronicle

At least seven people sustained gun shot wounds, fired by a combined team of police and military men, when what appeared to be a peaceful demonstration organized by the chiefs and people of Prestea, a mining town in the Western Region, against surface mining operators in the town yesterday.

The police and the military men resorted to the firing of live bullets when they were overwhelmed by the more than 5,000 people that had turned out at the demonstration.

The security men first fired several warning shots and teargas to scare some of the demonstrators, who had wanted to invade one of the mining pits, belonging to the Bogoso Gold Limited (BTL), but the crowd was not perturbed, and kept on surging forward.

The direction of the wind did not help the security men, too, as most of the teargas they fired to disperse the crowd returned to their direction, thus enabling the crowd to surge forward.

This compelled the soldiers and the policemen to start firing live bullets, which hit the affected victims.

Journalists covering the demonstration also escaped death by the skin of the teeth, when one of the stray bullets hit a wall near where they were standing.

The victims, who were rushed to the Prestea Government Hospital were identified as Joseph Otoo, shot in the thigh, Abass Ali, also shot at the mouth, and Master Ekpaha, a 10- year-old boy who was standing far away, had his upper lip blown into tatters by the bullet and was seen crying at the hospital without anybody attending to him.

Alfred Salou, was hit by a bullet in the thigh, which also penetrated through the body.

Another victim, Godfred Animea, also had his shoulder penetrated with a bullet and was on admission when reporters visited the hospital.

Other victims were identified as Ampem Samuel, who had head injuries, Grace Nanor, and Kofi Adama, whose right foot was completely torn off by the bullet.

At the time reporters were leaving the hospital, nurses were seen working feverishly on the victims, who are mostly 'galamsey' operators.

In The Chronicle's own estimation, the few security men who apparently under-estimated what would happen at the demonstration fired about 80 warning shots, including tear gas.

The military commander, who was leading the team however, exhibited a high sense of professionalism by constantly warning his people not to shoot to kill.

The situation would have been worse if they had opened fire directly at the crowd.

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