AFP/ Save, Benin
One person was killed and at least five were wounded by gunfire yesterday, local officials and witnesses said, after troops in Benin cleared protesters in a flashpoint city days before President Patrice Talon seeks re-election.
Protests have erupted in the West African country’s opposition bastions ahead of Sunday’s vote, which critics say is skewed in Talon’s favour after the main opposition leaders were sidelined in a crackdown.
A column of military vehicles arrived early yesterday to disperse demonstrators in the central city of Save, a focus of opposition protests two years ago, where makeshift barricades of trees and tyres blocked a major road.
Troops initially fired tear gas, an AFP correspondent at the scene said, and then more detonations were heard as one soldier fired in the air from an armoured vehicle mounted with what appeared to be a heavy calibre weapon.
The director of a local dispensary in Save said he had taken in one dead and six wounded by gunshots.
“We admitted them at our clinic... One dead from a live round and six with bullet wounds,” said Jose Godjo, head of the Boni clinic in Save. “All the wounded have been transferred to hospital in Save.”
The city’s mayor, Denis Oba Chabi, confirmed one person died from gunshot wounds and three more were wounded.
Waiting in a Save emergency ward, local resident Phillipe Samon said his brother had also been shot and wounded in the thigh though he was not a protester.
Save was deserted yesterday afternoon with the army positioned around the city. Sporadic gunfire was still being heard in the early afternoon, an AFP correspondent said.
Benin government spokesman Alain Orounla said security forces and public buildings in Save were assaulted by a horde of “drugged and armed youth” and dismissed any risk for the vote.
“Our security forces came under fire, they had to repel their attackers,” he said, without mentioning any casualties. “The election will take place on Sunday... the republic has control of the situation.”
– Rivals sidelined – The capital Porto-Novo and the economic hub Cotonou were calm on Thursday as well as Parakou in the north, where some protests had taken place in
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