Zanzibar opposition says 3 shot dead by police in poll clashes

A truck transporting Tanzanian Army personnel is seen in Darajabovu, Zanzibar, on October 27, 2020 near the Mtupepo polling station. Marco Longari | AFP

Semi-autonomous Zanzibar's main opposition party said Tuesday three people had been killed by police on the archipelago's island of Pemba, as clashes erupted ahead of Tanzania's elections.

Police fired teargas and live rounds, and brutally beat a young man in the opposition stronghold of Garagara, an AFP reporter saw, as security forces began voting a day before presidential and parliamentary elections.

The opposition believes the special day of early voting is a ploy to steal the election on an island with a history of contested polls, and vowed they would try and vote on the same day.

Violence erupted on Pemba, an opposition stronghold, as the army distributed ballots which opposition supporters believed were pre-marked.

"Verified reports from Pemba in Zanzibar indicate that three citizens have been shot dead by the police using live ammunition," read a statement from the opposition ACT-Wazalendo (Alliance for Change and Transparency) party.

The party named the three dead, as well as nine who were injured.

"We call upon the regional and international community to persuade the Tanzanian and Zanzibar governments to allow a free and fair election to run free of violence and intimidation over the next two days."

There was a heavy presence of police and soldiers across the islands.

In Garagara, where opposition leader Seif Sharif Hamad was expected to vote, riot police ran into alleyways firing teargas and live rounds.

A group of around six officers mercilessly beat a young man with their guns and batons, before loading him into the back of their car.

Journalists were chased away from the scene.

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