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Wednesday, December 9, 1998 Published at 18:44 GMT

World: Africa

OAU on Comoros peace mission

A delegation from the Organisation of African Unity is in the Comoros in the Indian Ocean on a fact-finding mission following fighting between rival militia groups on the breakaway island of Anjouan.

The team, led by a South African general, Jan Lusse, is there at the request of the government, which wants the organisation to intervene in the fighting.

The violence began on Saturday after a failed assassination attempt against Anjouan's self-declared president, Foundi Abdullah Ibrahim - by supporters of his former prime minister, Chamasse Said Omar.

Refugees fleeing Anjouan have accused supporters of Mr Chamasse of carrying out summary executions in parts of the capital, Mutsamadi, under their control. The town is reported to have been extensively looted as both sides fought for control of the capital.

Some reports said up to 60 people have been killed during the fighting and thousands had fled their homes. Residents in Anjouan said fighting died down on Tuesday.

Both Mr Foundi and Mr Chamasse had originally advocated a return to French rule, along the lines of the nearby island of Mayotte, which voted against joining the other islands of the archipelago when they became independent in 1975 and is still administered from Paris.

Mr Foundi, a former Islamic teacher and French soldier, led Anjouan's secession from the main island of Grand Comore in August last year, arguing that Comoran independence from France in 1975 had been economically disastrous for Anjouan.

But France refused to accept Anjouan back, and Anjouan's break with Grand Comore led to further economic hardship on the island.

As a result, Foundi Ibrahim began considering the possibility of re-negotiating some form of relationship with Grand Comore. But Mr Chamasse remained adamantly opposed to this, and was recently sacked from his post of prime minister.

Both leaders have said they will boycott presidential elections which are due following the death last month of President Abdulkarim Mohamed Taki.

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