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1 dead, 3 wounded in northern Mozambique clashes

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) – Clashes between police and supporters of a former rebel movement in Mozambique left one officer dead, another wounded and two opposition fighters wounded Thursday, police said.

Police spokesman Inacio Dina told state broadcasters the violence began when Renamo supporters attacked a police vehicle early Thursday morning, killing the officer. Dina said the vehicle had been carrying reinforcements who have been keeping an eye on Renamo party headquarters in the northern town of Nampula, where 300 Renamo supporters, some believed to have been armed, have been camping for weeks.

After the attack, Dina said, police stormed the site, clashing with the men camping there as well as with what police describe as an illegal Renamo security force, known as the party’s Presidential Guard. Two in the Renamo group were seriously injured and 23 arrested, Dina said. He said police confiscated five assault rifles from the Renamo group.

Dina said area residents were initially asked to stay in their homes and schools closed as police chased those who escaped the initial raid. Some fugitives were believed to be hiding out in Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama’s home in Nampula. Dhlakama was believed to be in the house as well. The Nampula area has long been a Renamo stronghold.

Dina said later Thursday that life had returned to normal in the area. He said police have no intention of trying to enter Dhlakama’s house. But Dina said police believe they were there to claim promised demobilization pay.

Renamo general secretary Ossufo Mamude told reporters in Maputo that Dhlakama had called President Armando Guebuza to demand a report on what had happened in Nampula.

“Renamo is waiting for an answer,” he said.

Mamude also said seven police officers were killed, a claim police denied.

Nampula residents have told state TV they feared the Renamo group, and police spokesman Dina accused the group of having kidnapped a local man. But Renamo’s spokesman, Fernando Mazanga, said at a news conference in Maputo on Tuesday that the men were peaceful and had a right to gather to organize demonstrations.

Dhlakama has been threatening to peacefully oust the Frelimo party since losing 2009 elections, but no demonstrations have been held.

Religious leaders in Nampula had expressed concern about the condition of the men when they were camped out in front of the Renamo office, saying they had little food or proper sanitation.

After winning independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique fell into a devastating war between Frelimo, which was then a Marxist guerrilla group, and Renamo, which was backed by neighboring South Africa’s apartheid government.

Frelimo has been in power since independence and has won every vote since Mozambique’s first multiparty election in 1994. The nation of 23 million on the southeast coast of Africa is among the poorest in the world.

Frelimo’s Guebuza easily won a second presidential term and his party swept parliamentary voting in 2009. Renamo accused Frelimo of stuffing ballot boxes and expelling opposition monitors from polling stations. Foreign observers deemed voting free and fair, despite concerns Frelimo used its entrenched position to overwhelm rivals during campaigning.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)