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Opposition backers hurl Molotov cocktails at Djibouti police

By Abdourahim Arteh

DJIBOUTI | Fri Mar 1, 2013 10:02am EST

(Reuters) – Riot police in Djibouti city on Friday fought street battles with thousands of anti-government supporters protesting against last weekend’s ruling party win in a parliamentary election.

Rowdy mobs threw Molotov cocktails when the security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowds chanting “freedom” and “free our leaders”, a reference to the detention of several prominent moderate Islamists from the opposition.

“We won’t stop until their release,” Mahdi Ali told Reuters in the run-down suburb of Balbala, an opposition stronghold. The opposition has rejected the result of last Friday’s election and says the vote was rigged.

Djibouti hosts the United States’ only military base in Africa and is an important ally in the U.S.-led fight against militant Islam. The former French colony’s port is also used by foreign navies protecting the Gulf of Aden’s shipping lanes, some of the busiest in the world, from Somali pirates.

Opposition leaders had called for demonstrations after Friday prayers to protest the disputed election results which gave the ruling party a large majority in parliament.

Similar clashes erupted earlier this week after the opposition said the vote was flawed.

(Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Rosalind Russell)




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