Africa

Deadly riots in Mozambique over rising prices

A demonstrator throws a tyre on a burning barricade during riots in Maputo
Image caption Protesters blocked Maputo's roads with burning tyres

Six people, including two children, are reported to have been killed during riots in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, over rising food and fuel prices.

But police spokesman Pedro Cossa told the AFP news agency only four people had died, and denied police had fired live rounds at the demonstrators after they blocked roads and threw stones.

The country's Interior Minister, Jose Pacheco, has appealed for calm.

The authorities had earlier warned that demonstrations would not be tolerated.

The violence was the worst in the impoverished African state since 2008.

'Outlaws'

Mozambique's private S-TV television station and Portugal's Lusa news agency said six people had been killed in Wednesday's riots across the capital and the suburbs.

But the police confirmed only four deaths, and said 142 people had been arrested and 27 wounded, including two police officers.

"The police will continue to patrol the streets," police spokesman Mr Cossa said.

He also denied that police had fired live rounds, saying: "Our officers always use rubber bullets."

Earlier, police told the Reuters news agency that two children had been among the dead, and that live rounds had been used when the police ran out of rubber bullets.

One of those killed was a 12-year-old boy who was shot in the head, according to AFP. Witnesses said he had been walking towards one of the protests when police opened fire.

Image caption Armoured personnel carriers are patrolling the capital's streets

"We all saw it, all of us participating in the strike. We want justice here," said Eunici Antonia Kiove.

The demonstrators chanted slogans against President Armando Guebuza, whose Frelimo party has been in power since independence in 1975.

Mr Pacheco called the demonstrators "outlaws and criminals", and urged Maputo residents to be calm.

The main opposition party, Renamo, condemned the government's response.

Mozambicans have seen the price of a loaf of bread rise by as much as 30% as the value of the national currency, the metical, has fallen against the South African rand.

The increase also comes as wheat prices have shot up around the world.

"The rise in bread prices and other essential goods is not the reason for the protest, but only the drop of water that spilled the cup," Alice Mabota, head of the Mozambican League of Human Rights, told Lusa.

Mozambique's per capita GDP is only $802, compared with $9,757 in South Africa, and an estimated 70% of the population live below the poverty line. The country is ranked 175th out of 179 countries on the UN Human Development Index.

In 2008, clashes between police and rioters over rising prices left at least four people dead and more than 100 injured.

The riots then forced the government to cancel plans to increase fuel prices.

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