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One dead, at least 25 injured in Comoros protests over president’s re-election

ONE person has been killed and at least 25 injured in violent protests that erupted after Comoros President Azali Assoumani’s re-election on Sunday, a health official said.

Demonstrations erupted on Wednesday, a day after the electoral body declared Assoumani winner, giving him a fourth five-year term.

A seven-year-old child was among the wounded, Djabir Ibrahim, head of the emergency department at Moroni’s El-Maarouf Hospital, told Reuters. One of the injured was in intensive care with serious chest trauma, he added.

Assoumani beat five other candidates in the election. His opponents have said the election was tainted by voter fraud, alleging instances of ballot stuffing and of voting ending before the official closing time.

The government has denied those accusations.

The army fired tear gas on Wednesday to disperse protesters in Moroni, the capital of Comoros, an Indian Ocean archipelago of islands with a population of about 800,000.

The interior ministry announced a nighttime curfew throughout the country on Wednesday, but protesters were still on the streets in the north of Moroni in the early hours of Thursday.

A government spokesperson blamed the protests on supporters of losing candidates.

“These are things that happen here and elsewhere, especially when we are beaten and we contest the results,” government spokesperson Houmed Msaidie told Reuters.

He said several demonstrators had been arrested.

At least four people told Reuters on Thursday that they had trouble connecting to the internet to use social media platforms because of service disruptions.

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for calm and appealed to authorities to practise restraint in the wake of protests.

Assoumani first came to power through a coup in 1999. He stepped down in 2002 and then won elections 14 years later. Constitutional reforms in 2018 removed a requirement that the presidency rotate among its three main islands every five years, allowing Assoumani to seek re-election in 2019.

He won 62.97% of the vote in the latest election, according to the National Electoral Commission.

Comoros has experienced around 20 coups or attempted coups since winning independence from France in 1975 and is a source of irregular migration to the nearby French island of Mayotte.