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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK
Market razed in Ivory Coast clashes
Ivorian demonstrators
Violent protests have been common in recent years
A market has been burnt down in the central Ivory Coast town of Daloa and police suspect a political motive.

The government has imposed a two-day curfew from dusk until dawn in an attempt to halt the violence.

The market fire came a day after three people were shot dead and about 30 more injured in clashes between rival political parties.

Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo's ruling FPI party fought with activists from Alassane Ouattara's RDR party, the Mayor of Daloa, Guede Guina, told the BBC.

Ivory Coast map
Ivory Coast's long period of political stability ended in 1999 and a year later clashes between the FPI and the RDR left many dead.

Tensions have been rising ahead of local elections on 7 July.

Much of the market was destroyed by flames and many of the stalls not burnt were torn down to prevent the fire spreading to two petrol stations.

The police believe the fire was linked to the political violence but they do not know who started it, according to the BBC's David Chazan in Daloa.

Protestors in Ivory Coast
Ivorians are making their voices heard

He said most of the market traders were from the north of the country, ethnically Dioula and Muslim like the RDR supporters of Mr Ouattara.

Daloa's population is mostly Bete, the same ethnic group as President Gbagbo.

The trouble appears to have broken out following RDR protests over the recent killing of a minibus driver. The opposition blame the death on the police.

The bus driver, Lansana Bakare, an RDR member, was shot last week after failing to stop at a police roadblock. His funeral ceremonies started on Monday.

His mourners were offended by the president's supporters holding a party meeting on Tuesday only 200 metres from the mosque where the funeral rites were ongoing.

According to witnesses, RDR militants led a protest march, hurling stones and insults at the FPI, accusing them of protecting the so-called "killer police".

The FPI supporters responded angrily and the row erupted into violent clashes.

An RDR member said they were not expecting the FPI supporters to be armed, according to the BBC's Kate Davenport in Abidjan.

Three of the opposition protesters were shot dead in the clashes.

The government has dispatched large numbers of security personnel to the area, in an attempt to keep the peace.

See also:

31 May 02 | Africa
30 Jan 02 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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