October 21, 2018 / 4:47 PM / a month ago

Comoros places governor of strife-torn Anjouan under house arrest

MORONI (Reuters) - Authorities in Comoros on Sunday placed the governor of strife-torn Anjouan island under house arrest on charges of instigating unrest in the province, as the government sent in more troops to quell the violence.

Anjouan has been shaken by clashes pitting security forces against young men angry at President Azali Assoumani’s plans to end a rotating presidency in a way critics say could leave the province permanently excluded from national power.

Last week, the unrest worsened with government officials saying soldiers shot dead two people and wounded four as violence broke out between masked men and the military in Anjouan’s capital Mutsamudu.

On Sunday, Interior Minister Mohamed Daoud told a press conference that Anjouan’s governor Abdou Salami Abdou had been placed under house arrest for instigating the rebellion and for the distribution of arms and money to the insurgents.

A government statement said they were preparing to appoint an administrator in place of the governor.

The move came hours after Salami posted on Facebook dismissing allegations of his involvement in the violence.

Earlier on Sunday, the government deployed more soldiers in the capital after it signed an accord with local authorities and Mutsamudu on Friday aimed at ending the violence.

The Minister of the Interior said in a statement that security would “search every corner of the island to find places where weapons are hidden.”

Residents in Anjouan told Reuters that the island was still without electricity and water, which were cut off on Thursday as part of efforts to quell the unrest.

In August, Assoumani - who is from the largest island, Grande Comore - said a June referendum had approved the extension of presidential term limits and an end to the rotating presidency. The opposition called the referendum illegal.

Assoumani plans to compete in presidential polls in early 2019. That would deny Anjouan its turn to occupy the presidency from 2021, as would have happened under the previous system that rotated the post among the country’s three main islands.

Assoumani has been in power since 2016 and would have had to step down in 2021 under the old term limits.

Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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