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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 September, 2003, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Maldives capital tense after riot

By Frances Harrison
BBC correspondent in Colombo

A curfew has been lifted in the capital of the Maldive Islands, Male, after unprecedented clashes between the police and local people.

Maldives
Armoured vehicles are said to be patrolling the streets of the city after crowds attacked several government buildings and set police jeeps on fire on Saturday.

The violence was triggered by the deaths of two prisoners in a jail, which relatives blamed on the police.

One eyewitness to the trouble in the jail said it started with a fight between two inmates.

When the security forces intervened a policeman was hit by a prisoner.

The eyewitness says this man was then taken out, assaulted and then died of his injuries.

This is said to have triggered a riot, during which the security forces reportedly fired Kalashnikov rifles at the prisoners, injuring an unknown number of them.

The prisoners are now chained and handcuffed.

It was when the casualties were sent to the hospital in Male that unrest broke out there.

Relatives and friends of the dead threw stones at government buildings and set vehicles on fire in an unusual show of protest against the government of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has been in power for 25 years.

Reports from Male say the family of one of the dead men will not allow him to be buried and police are preventing mourners from gathering at the house.

International flights to and from the Maldives have not been affected, because the airport is on a different island from the town and consular officials say there has been no impact on tourists.


SEE ALSO:
Amnesty blasts 'holiday paradise'
30 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
05 Sep 03  |  Country profiles
Maldives defends prison terms
26 Feb 03  |  South Asia


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