Ivorian anti-riot policemen use tear gas to dispers opposition supporters in Blockhauss, Abidjan. AFP
At least five people died and many others were wounded in election day clashes in opposition strongholds in Ivory Coast, officials said on Sunday.
The country was spared the kind of widespread violence that many feared would erupt during voting on Saturday, as President Alassane Ouattara seeks a third term that his opponents say is unconstitutional.
Opponents of 78-year-old Ouattara say he is breaking the law by running again because the constitution limits presidents to two terms, and risks shattering the fragile peace that has been in place since a civil war killed 3,000 people in 2010-11.
The streets of the country's economic engine, Abidjan, were quiet on Sunday, as they had been on election day, as many stayed at home for fear of violence. Some had already left the commercial capital for villages in the provinces ahead of the vote.
Election officials start to count the ballots during the presidential election in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Reuters
However, some areas did see violence, and the atmosphere remained tense ahead of partial results expected on Sunday.
"Young armed men from the surrounding villages ... fired on the other young people," said Germain N'Dri Koffi, mayor of the town of Tiebissou in the centre of the country, the heartland of opposition candidate, former president Henri Konan Bedie.
Four were killed and 27 injured by bullets and machetes, he said. One other person was killed in the pro-Bedie town of Niable, a government official said on condition of anonymity.
Opposition candidate Pascal Affi N'Guessan said on Sunday that 12 people had died, without providing details.
The towns affected are not major producers of cocoa, of which Ivory Coast is the world's top grower. However, some buyers told Reuters on Sunday that middlemen were avoiding trips into rural areas of cocoa-growing regions for fear of violence.
Ouattara says he can run again under a new constitution approved in 2016, and is doing so only because his handpicked successor died unexpectedly in July.Bedie and Affi had urged supporters to boycott the vote. That is expected to hand Ouattara victory, but may undermine the legitimacy of a third term.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist party and the firebrand leader of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, are caught up in a fierce battle for the eastern state renowned for its high levels of political violence and murders.
Security forces caused the majority of the casualties — four killed and four wounded — while trying to control a crowd outside a voting center in Cooch Behar district, said senior police officer Vishal Garg. He gave no further details on what sparked the clashes.
Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, who leads parliament's largest bloc, had asked Abdul Mahdi to call an early election. When the premier refused, he called on his main political rival Hadi al-Amiri to help oust him.
One worker said that was barely enough to buy food, let alone other necessities. "Nowadays we can't even afford coarse rice for our family with this amount," said Anjana Bhuyian, 50.
As part of its intensified testing campaign, MoHAP announced that it conducted 226,570 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, using state-of-the-art medical testing equipment.
The Ministry expressed full support to any measures taken by Saudi authorities to maintain its security and safety of its citizens and residents.