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Page last updated at 09:03 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Mozambique police held for deaths

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Three senior Mozambican police officers have been arrested after 13 people died of asphyxiation in an overcrowded police cell last Tuesday.

The officers are accused of negligence for allegedly keeping 48 prisoners in a small cell in northern Nampula province without sufficient ventilation.

The government's interior minister has been urged by the main opposition party to resign over the tragedy.

The dead were among detainees accused of a deadly attack on Red Cross staff.

The BBC's Jose Tembe in Maputo says an investigation concluded the prisoners had died due to a lack of ventilation.

Nampula provincial governor, Felismino Tocoli, said the police should have known it was inhumane to incarcerate so many people in a tiny cell with just one small opening for ventilation.

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's Renamo opposition party, called for Interior Minister Jose Pacheco to quit.

He said the police had lost control of the area they are supposed to be controlling.

Two Red Cross staff died when they were attacked by a mob in the village of Quinga earlier this month.

The aid agency workers had been accused of spreading cholera in the wells, when they were adding chlorine to decontaminate the water sources, according to reports.

Human rights groups have long warned of deplorable and overcrowded conditions in Mozambican prison cells.



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