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Cameroon police kill students in blackout protest

YAOUNDE, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Police in Cameroon shot dead two students during a protest triggered by days of power blackouts in the western town of Kumba, state radio and a senior local official said on Monday.

The police officers opened fire as they were pelted with stones and Molotov cocktails during the demonstration on Saturday, hitting two students in the head and killing them instantly. Another five were injured, one of them seriously.

“I am particularly disgusted by the fact that the police used live bullets against unarmed student demonstrators,” Prince Ekale Mukete, mayor of the Kumba 1 district in the centre of the town, told Reuters.

“There are other means of suppressing student protests ... but using machine-guns and pistols against students is excessive, barbarous and totally unacceptable,” he said, urging the authorities in the capital Yaounde to discipline the police.

Saturday's protest had been called to demand the release of four other students arrested during demonstrations in Kumba earlier in the week against local energy firm AES-SONEL, a unit of U.S. power company AES Corp AES.N, state radio said.

Frustrations had boiled over after a blackout lasting more than 10 days, interrupting the students’ classes and preventing them from studying, it said.

Angered by the killings, local residents later joined the student demonstrators and burned down a local government office, the regional AES-SONEL office in Kumba and vehicles parked in surrounding streets, the radio station said.

Calm had since returned after the detained students were released and local authorities met with AES-SONEL officials to try to resolve the power crisis.

The unrest is just the latest uprising against blackouts that have gripped the central African country, including Yaounde and the main commercial city of Douala, in recent months.

The security forces shot dead three protesters in Abong-Mbang in eastern Cameroon in August during a demonstration against a blackout that had lasted several days. (Editing by Nick Tattersall)