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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April, 2005, 00:16 GMT 01:16 UK
Togo election rally turns violent
Thousands of supporters of Togo's main opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio attended his rally in the capital, Lome on Saturday 16 April
Opposition supporters wore yellow during the rally in the capital
At least seven people were killed during violent clashes between rival political groups in Togo's capital during Saturday's pre-election rallies.

Officials from the Togolese ruling party said six of their supporters had been killed during the fighting.

An opposition leader said one of its supporters had also been killed during the clashes which erupted in a northern suburb of the capital, Lome.

At least 150 people were injured in the street scuffles.

People had flooded onto the streets to welcome the country's exiled opposition leader ahead of presidential elections.

The elections, organised under international pressure, are due to be held next Sunday.

"Sadly, six supporters of the ruling party were killed," Claude Vondoly, of a human rights group linked to the ruling party, told Reuters news agency.

'Hasty' poll

A member of the opposition party said that 55 of its supporters had been injured and that one man had been killed.

Many opposition supporters had taken to the streets on Saturday, wearing yellow T-shirts and caps and waving palms, the traditional symbol of support for opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio's Union of Forces for Change (UFC) party.

Mr Vondoly said many of those who support the ruling party were attacked for wearing T-shirts with an image of their candidate, Faure Gnassingbe.

Mr Gnassingbe took power when his father died.

Opposition parties have criticised the hastily-arranged presidential poll, alleging that the vote has been organised too quickly and is vulnerable to vote-rigging.

Mr Olympio, who has lived in exile since an assassination attempt in 1992 and who was met by cheering crowds on his return to Togo on Saturday, is ineligible for this election.

He confirmed that his deputy, Bob Akitani, would stand in the poll.

Charismatic

But Mr Olympio, the son of Togo's first president, who was murdered in a military coup, has lent the process qualified support.

On Saturday he said he would not call for a boycott unless conditions deteriorated during the week.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Lome says Mr Olympio is still clearly an iconic figure, completely overshadowing his less charismatic deputy.

Aides refused to say whether, if elected, Mr Akitani planned to stand aside in favour of Mr Olympio.

They said Togolese would be voting less for any particular candidate than to get rid of the Gnassingbe family, who have been in power in Togo for the past 38 years, our correspondent reports.


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