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Opposition leader in Chad gunned down in shootout

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Chadian opposition politician Yaya Dillo has been killed during an exchange of fire with security forces, state prosecutor Oumar Mahamat Kedelaye, has announced at a news conference.

Yaya Dillo, who had been expected to run for president in an election planned for May, was among scores of people killed and injured in an exchange of gunfire with security forces in Ndjamena, the capital.

The shooting erupted after several people were killed in earlier clashes near the National Security Agency building.

A landlocked, desert country surrounded by neighbors battling insurgencies, plagued by coups or at war, Chad has long been seen as a linchpin for stability and is an important U.S. ally in the region, despite its political instability.

This is coming amid tensions in the lead-up a presidential election set for May and June that could return the central African state to constitutional democracy three years after the military seized power.

The capital was calm on Thursday morning and residents were returning to work, although internet access, which was blocked a day earlier, had still not been restored.

On Wednesday, the headquarters of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders, led by Dillo, was cordoned off by security forces.

Meanwhile, accounts of the incidents given by the government and the party differed.

A government statement said the security agency was attacked by representatives of the party, resulting in several deaths.

While detailing a separate incident, the government said a member of the party, Ahmed Torabi, had carried out an assassination attempt against the president of the supreme court, Samir Adam Annour. Torabi was arrested, it said.

The opposition party’s general secretary told Reuters the deaths near the security agency occurred when soldiers opened fire on a group of party members.

He said Torabi had been shot dead on Tuesday and his body was deposited at the agency’s headquarters. On Wednesday morning, party members and Torabi’s relatives went to look for his body at the agency and soldiers shot at them, killing several people, the general secretary said.

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