Mozambique’s government on Thursday said seven people were killed and 248 injured in demonstrations over rising food, fuel and power prices that rocked the capital, Maputo, on Wednesday.
Speaking after a meeting of President Armando Guebuza’s cabinet to discuss the unrest, cabinet spokesman Antonio Mkutumula said the victims were six demonstrators and a policeman.
Two schoolchildren were among the dead after police opened fire on thousands of stone—throwing demonstrators, who shut down roads in and out of the city with burning tyres and barricades.
The police are accused of using live ammunition instead of rubber bullets in some of the demonstrations.
The rioting continued throughout Wednesday night, but by Thursday, calm had been restored to much of the city.
Sporadic gunfire was still heard in some places as police fired into the air to disperse small groups of protesters, but the rioting had mostly abated.
“We regret the loss of life and destruction of public and private property,” Mr. Mkutumula told reporters. “The government of Mozambique urges citizens to stay calm and not engage in further demonstrations.” Flights out of Maputo to neighbouring South Africa and other destinations resumed after being grounded Wednesday, as the main airport road was transformed into a battleground.
The riots, which were provoked by a series of steep increases in the prices of electricity, bread, water and petrol, were organized last week through an anonymous mobile phone SMS campaign.
Several food warehouses were looted and several petrol stations torched in the violence, which has shaken the peaceful but impoverished country of 23 million.
On Thursday, SMS messages calling for continued protests were doing the rounds.
“Don’t give up protesting. Let’s continue until Friday,” one anonymous SMS urged.
Two years ago, the former Portuguese colony, which is still recovering from a devastating 1976—1992 civil war, was also gripped by protests over price hikes.
Those protests, which saw six demonstrators killed, led the government to cancel a planned bus fare increase.
On Thursday, the cabinet made no move to rein in prices, saying merely that it would continue implementing its government programme.