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Latest update : 2010-12-03

Two people were shot dead during Sunday's hotly contested presidential run-off in Ivory Coast, bringing the number of people killed in poll-related violence to at least six amid mutual accusations of fraud. Initial results are expected on Monday.

AFP - Two people were shot dead as Ivory Coast's crucial presidential election Sunday descended into fresh violence and mutual allegations of cheating.

The killings brought to at least six the number of people reported by officials to have been killed in the past week in violence surrounding the second-round vote, which aimed to end a decade of instability.

Members of the Dozo, a community close to the rebels who control the north of the country, "opened fire on troops and civilians. The toll is two dead: one member of the armed forces and one civilian", said a government statement.

It added that three people were injured in the attack, "including one who is in critical condition".

Earlier the opposition camp of challenger Alassane Ouattara accused President Laurent Gbagbo's allies of barring many voters from polling stations Sunday as voting drew to a close.

The government responded with its own list of irregularities. A spokesman for Gbagbo told reporters that voting in the rebel-held half of the country was "not transparent overall".

In its statement, read out on state television, the government said northern New Forces rebels had "ransacked polling stations" in several towns.

The vote was a close-fought bout between Gbagbo, 65, a southern Christian who has held on to power since his term expired in 2005, and ex-prime minister Ouattara, 68, from the largely Muslim north.

"We have had lots of calls telling us of cases of serious human rights violations, intimidation and prevention of voting," Soungalo Coulibaly, a lawyer for challenger Ouattara's RDR party, told reporters.

The head of the European Union electoral monitoring mission Cristian Peda said barriers were observed blocking people from voting in several places, including in Gbagbo's hometown of Gagnoa, and that some ballots were stolen.

He did not indicate who was to blame. Peda added that EU observers had quit the administrative capital Yamoussoukro days before the polls when they received death threats.

A senior RDR official, Marcel Amon Tanoh, alleged some of the abuses were committed on Sunday against voters in areas populated by the Baoule tribe, a key group of voters whose support could swing the election.

In the first round the Baoule voted mostly for the third candidate Henri Konan Bedie, who was defeated and backed Ouattara in the second round.

Voters had flocked for the most part peacefully to cast their ballots in Sunday's runoff before the polls closed at 5:00 pm (1700 GMT).

The election aimed to stabilise what was once west Africa's most prosperous country, in crisis following a 1999 coup and a 2002 civil war that split Ivory Coast, the world's biggest cocoa producer, between north and south.

Ivorian and UN forces have bolstered their deployments around the country in case of more violence.

It was not yet clear Sunday when the first election results were expected. Several sources said turnout seemed weaker than the massive 83 percent of the first round.

Gbagbo has ordered a disputed curfew for each night from Saturday to Wednesday. He insisted it was to ensure security but Ouattara branded it a ploy to stifle the opposition and his supporters warned they would not comply.

On Saturday the candidates appealed for a peaceful vote after officials said three people died in Abidjan in violence between police and demonstrators protesting the curfew. Another death was reported on Thursday.

"We launch a solemn call to all voters and activists to refrain from acts of aggression," they said in a joint statement. "We are solemnly committed to respecting the outcome of the ballots."

Date created : 2010-11-28


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