Malawi President calls for calm as 11 die in riots

BLANTYRE (Reuters) – At least 11 people have been killed in clashes between Malawian demonstrators and police during rioting in three cities against President Bingu wa Mutharika, health officials and relatives in the southern African nation said on Thursday.

Health ministry spokesman Henry Chimbali confirmed 10 deaths in the northern city of Mzuzu, where protesters ransacked the offices of Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Wednesday in a rare show of public anger.

Relatives told Reuters another man had died after being shot in the southern city of Blantyre, where police and troops fired tear gas to disperse crowds of demonstrators demanding Mutharika quit as leader of the impoverished nation of 13 million.

The overall death toll looks set to rise, with security forces in the capital, Lilongwe, clashing for a second day with groups of anti-government youths.

“Most casualties are dying of excessive bleeding,” Chimbali told Reuters. “As people are still rioting out there we’re seeing more casualties coming in, especially at Lilongwe Central Hospital.”

Mutharika, a former World Bank economist first elected in 2004, took to the airwaves to appeal for calm, saying he was happy to hear grievances from opponents who accuse him of ignoring civil liberties and ruining the economy.

“Stop the rioting and let’s sit down to discuss,” he said in a special address on state radio that also hinted at a fiercer crackdown.

“I have a responsibility, based on the powers vested in me by the constitution, to bring law and order,” he said in the 12-minute speech.

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