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French oil group pulls foreign staff out of riot-hit Port Gentil

French oil group Total has pulled its expatriate staff and their families out of Gabon's second city, oil hub Port Gentil, after rioters and looters targeted the company's buildings. At least two people have been killed in post-election violence.


AFP - French oil giant Total pulled its foreign staff out of Gabon's second city Saturday as security forces clashed anew with protesters opposed to the election of Ali Bongo as president.

At least two people have been shot dead in three days of unrest since the results were announced. One opposition party has called for "resistance" to the declaration of the son of the late veteran ruler Omar Bongo as new president.

Security forces battled looters through the night in Port-Gentil where a curfew has been ordered after a police station and the offices of French companies have been attacked.

Residents said they heard shots throughout the night.

Public buildings and a sports and social club run by Total were destroyed in new attacks. On Friday stores and petrol stations in the West African country's oil capital were attacked and set ablaze.

Demonstrators ransacked a police station and then freed detainees from the cells before torching it.

Total pulled out Port-Gentil staff and their families and sent them to the capital Libreville on a "temporary" basis to ensure their security, a company spokesman said. Only local staff will remain in the port city.

France evacuated most of its citizens out of Port-Gentil after the French consulate there was razed on Thursday. It has told French nationals in the rest of the country to stay in their homes.

Air services to Port-Gentil, Gabon's economic hub, have been suspended since Friday evening, residents said.

French troops are protecting the consulate and France, the former colonial power, has a military base near the capital, Libreville. But interim defence minister Jean-Francois Ndongou has ruled out asking French troops to help.

Extra security has been ordered for a football World Cup qualifying match between Gabon and Cameroon in Libreville on Saturday, with 20,000 people expected to attend the game.

Gabon's Interior and Security Minister Jean-Francois Ndongou said a night-time curfew in Port-Gentil would remain in place until further notice.

Ali Bongo was declared winner of last Sunday's election with 42 percent of the vote.

Andre Mba Obame, a former interior minister, won 26 percent of votes. Main opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou came third with 25 percent. But all three had proclaimed victory after the polls closed.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, current head of the Economic Community of Central African States, urged political leaders to "abstain from any initiative that would disturb the peace."

Ali Bongo called on his defeated rivals to accept the outcome.

"The people have spoken and the people are sovereign," he told France's Le Monde daily.

Mba Obame has called the result an "electoral coup" and insisted that he does not recognise them.

Mamboundou's Union for the Gabonese People (UPG) has called for "resistance" against the election result and said it was unsure where the leader was.

The UPG said it had had no news of Mamboundou since a demonstration outside the electoral commission on Thursday was violently broken up. Sources have told AFP however that Mamboundou has gone into hiding.

Security forces teargassed and baton charged demonstrators, including Mba Obame and Mamboundou outside the electoral commission headquarters before the results were announced Thursday, witnesses and their supporters said.

The authorities denied there was any action against the opposition leaders.

Home to 1.5 million people, Gabon is strategically important as the fourth largest oil producer in sub-Saharan African. It is also a major exporter of manganese and wood.

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