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7 killed, nearly 300 wounded in Mozambique violence

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Mozambique government confirms seven killed in violence
  • Streets are calmer, but more violence is expected
  • Mozambicans are protesting increases in the price of bread, water and other staples

(CNN) -- Seven people have been killed and 294 injured in riots in the southern African nation of Mozambique, Deputy Justice Minister Alberto Nkutumula said Friday.

Still, the situation appeared much calmer, and most shops and gas stations had reopened Friday morning, according to a local journalist. Public buses and some private transportation services were also operating.

However, rumor that protests over the increases in the price of bread, water, energy and other staples would start again for a third day meant businesses would close again in the early afternoon, journalist Jornl Savana reported.

Police used live rounds and threw tear gas into crowds Thursday, according to another local journalist who saw the violence in Maputo, the nation's capital.

Residents of the neighborhood where the violence took place are outraged, and police fear a backlash, said a police source who asked not to be named because of safety concerns.

Amnesty International on Wednesday urged police not to use live ammunition to disperse violent demonstrations in the capital unless lives are at risk.

Police mostly fired into the air, but did fire live rounds into crowds when they were greatly outnumbered, said local journalist Fernando Lima Thursday. Lima saw some of the violence in person and some on video. Crowds were smaller Thursday than on Wednesday, he said, and protests are not as widespread.

But police continued to engage in cat-and-mouse chases with youths setting tires on fire and engaging in other disruptive acts, Lima said.

Police made 142 arrests, according to police spokesman Pedro Cossa.

Three buses were burned, 32 shops were vandalized and more than five cars were burned or vandalized, Cossa added.

The price hikes are to go into effect September 6.

Prices are going up because the value of the South African rand is increasing against Mozambique's currency, said Lima, the journalist. The violence Wednesday took place in the cities of Maputo and Matola, with the deaths occurring on the outskirts of Maputo, the Mozambique News Agency reported.

Bank and electricity company offices were vandalized, and food warehouses belonging to the Sasseka and Delta Trading distribution companies were looted, the report said.

A U.S. Embassy official, who asked not to be identified, said President Armando Guebuza -- in a nationally televised address -- appealed for calm, saying the reputation of the country was at risk, but offering no economic solutions.

He said the government is already subsidizing the prices of food goods and gas.

Minister of Interior Jose Pacheco -- during a news conference -- had called for calm and exhorted parents to control their teenagers.

The U.S. State Department urged American citizens in Mozambique to avoid all unnecessary travel and remain at their homes or hotels until further notice.

The embassy will continue to operate, but will provide only emergency American citizen services, it said Wednesday.

Journalist Shaun Bissett and CNN's Jack Maddox contributed to this report.