12 dead in Malawi anti-government protests

Anti-government protesters rioting in Lilongwe, Malawi on July 20, 2011. Photo/AFP

Twelve people have been killed across Malawi after two days of violent anti-government protests, a health ministry spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

Nine people died in the northern town of Mzuzu, two in the commercial hub of Blantyre, and one in the town of Karonga on the border with Tanzania, health ministry spokesman Henry Chimbali said.

"Our assessment is that most of the victims died of heavy bleeding. We have yet to establish the cause of death after a post-mortem of each body," he said.

Another 22 people have been treated for injuries at various hospitals throughout the country, he added.

Rights activist Moses Mkandawire, who heads Church and Society, a charity run by the Presbyterian church, said earlier that seven people in Mzuzu had been shot dead by police during protests on Wednesday.

Police opened fire when looters descended on Chinese-owned shops and offices of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Bingu wa Mutharika, Mkandawire said.

Thousands of people were on the streets in the capital Lilongwe and the commercial hub Blantyre on Thursday, with riot police deployed to control the unrest.

The protesters accuse Mutharika of mismanaging the economy and trampling on democratic freedoms.