Strong backing

Rights organisations and the UN say the toll may have been higher than 150 and that at least 1,200 people were injured.

The military government puts the death toll at 56.

"All the shops, as well as the banks, have shut down, and the bus station as well"

Sall Mamadou Lamarana, local trader

In a statement issued last week, the main union federation called on people to observe a "day of prayer", urging them to "kneel  piously before the mortal remains of the ... martyrs for democracy in Guinea" - a reference to the protesters killed by security forces.

The strike action received strong support in the southeastern town of Kissidougou, where traders said there was "no activity" in the main market.

"All the shops, as well as the banks, have shut down, and the bus station as well," Sall Mamadou Lamarana, a trader, told the AFP news agency.

In northwestern Boke, Sine Magassouba, a teacher, said: "There is no activity at the market. People have been praying in the courtyards, and youth clubs."

Bauxite exports hit

Union sources said the strike also hit an aluminium refinery and bauxite exports, which are a major source of Guinea's foreign exchange.

Sekou Ousmane Diallo, head of the union at UC RUSAL's Friguia refinery, said: "We are maintaining minimum service because an aluminium refinery cannot be completely shut-down without the equipment possibly being damaged. However, 90 per cent of the Friguia workers stayed at home."

The refinery, which was projected to produce 527,000 tonnes of aluminium in 2008, is still operating despite a decision last month by the government to strip it from Rusal. Rusal is contesting the decision.

Efforts to resolve the crisis are continuing and last week Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the regional grouping Ecowas, met Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Fasso, who has been appointed by the body to mediate.

Amid mounting international pressure on Camara, rights groups have also reported cases of rape and other abuses at the stadium where the protest was staged.