50 to 100 dead in post-vote violence, Gabon opposition says

Libreville - Postelection violence in Gabon has killed between 50 and 100 people, the opposition presidential candidate said on Tuesday, a toll much higher than the government's count of three in days of violent demonstrations against the president's re-election.

Jean Ping has declared he is the rightful winner of the August 27 vote, though election commission results showed President Ali Bongo Ondimba won by 1.57 percentage points. Clashes quickly broke out in this oil-rich Central African country after the results were announced last week.

It is difficult to independently verify reports of deaths, as the internet has been shut off since August 31.

International pressure is growing on Gabon's government to show transparency in the vote results, with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday telling RTL radio that "common sense would command a recount of the ballots."

European Union observers have said the vote lacked transparency, and countries including the US and France have called on the government to publish results by individual polling stations.

Gabon's justice minister resigned Monday over the government's refusal to recount the ballots, as Ping has demanded. The African Union has offered to help find a solution to the crisis.

On Tuesday, Ping told France 24 the death toll was far higher than the three that Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya mentioned Monday. Boubeya also said 105 were injured in the postelection violence, with security forces detaining 800 people in the capital, Libreville, and 400 in other areas.

The opposition's estimate of 50 to 100 killed in the protests is based on reports from residents around the country, Ping's spokesman, Jean Gaspard Ntoutoume Ayi, told The Associated Press.

"It is clear that the government is hiding the true toll," Ntoutoume Ayi said. "The government fears an international investigation into the deaths of these people. Three dead is acceptable. Fifty to 100 dead is unacceptable."

Bongo's re-election would extend a family dynasty in power since the 1960s. He was elected in 2009 after the death of his father, longtime ruler Omar Bongo, and protests followed.

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