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One killed as pre-election protests spread in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – One person was killed and several injured when security forces opened fire on protesters in the southeast of Ivory coast on Monday, several witnesses said, a sign of spreading unrest ahead of an Oct. 31 election boycotted by the opposition.

More than a dozen people have been killed since August in protests against President Alassane Ouattara’s plan to stand for a third term, which his opponents say violates the constitution.

Images shared on social media showed protesters carrying a man through the streets of the town of Bonoua on a sheet of metal.

“I saw the young man who was killed. They passed through the neighbourhood with his body,” said Pelagie Vangah, a hairdresser in the town which is around 50km east of the country’s commercial capital Abidjan.

A local official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw the gendarmerie shoot dead one anti-government protester. Several others were injured, he said. A third witness, taxi driver Alain Ekissi, said: “At the moment, he’s the only one killed, but there are wounded too.”

Last week, Ouattara’s two main challengers, ex-President Henri Konan Bedie and ex-prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, both announced boycotts of the race and called on their supporters to stop the election from going ahead.

There is rising concern the acrimony around the election could trigger a bigger slide into violence. A disputed election a decade ago led to a civil war that killed 3,000 people.

On Saturday pro and anti-government crowds clashed in another eastern city. One of Ouattara’s provincial party offices was ransacked and a house belonging to one of his opponents torched.

Affi and Bedie accuse the ruling party of manipulating the electoral process to ensure Ouattara’s victory. Ouattara denies this and says he has the right to stand for re-election under a new constitution approved in 2016.

West African regional group ECOWAS said in a statement the opposition candidates should reconsider their boycott, “since they may not be able to control the excesses that would result from their call for civil disobedience”.

Reporting by Ange Aboa; Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Hereward Holland

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