Two children were shot dead and at least four more people were killed in clashes between police and rioters across Mozambique’s capital Maputo in protests over rising prices, police and hospital sources said.
Police used teargas to disperse crowds and fired live ammunition after running out of rubber bullets, while protesters blocked roads and burned tyres, police officials said.
The violence was the worst in the impoverished southern African country since 2008.
“Two children have been killed in the suburb of Mafalala,” police spokesman Arnaldo Chefo told Reuters. Police officially said three people were killed while hospital and police sources said the death toll was at least six.
The protests appeared to have been touched off when the government boosted prices on bread by 30 percent on Wednesday. The increase came as wheat prices have shot up around the world.
Residents of one of the world’s poorest countries say they have been hit hard by rising costs for basic necessities including bread, with soaring costs for fuel and other essentials adding to their troubles.
Mozambique also is heavily dependent on imports from South Africa, which have become more expensive in recent months as the South African rand currency has strengthened.
“I can hardly feed myself. I will join the protest because I’m outraged by this high cost of living,” Nelfa Temoteo, who lives in the capital’s densely populated Malhazine suburb, said.
Maputo police called for calm as the riots spread throughout the city of 23 million people.
“There is looting and vandalisation. Shops including banks in the Central Business District are closed,” Chefo said.
In 2008, at least six people were killed in Mozambique in protests in over high fuel prices and living costs. The government agreed to cut the price of diesel fuel for minibus taxis.