Malawi police "unknowingly" tear-gas U.S. ambassador amid clash with protesters

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LILONGWE, June 6 (Xinhua) -- Malawian police Thursday afternoon "unknowingly" tear-gassed U.S. Ambassador, Virginia Palmer, in their efforts to disperse supporters of opposition the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) who were protesting against May 21 presidential election results.

Malawi Police Spokesperson, James Kadadzera, confirmed the "mishap" to the local media saying the police "were not aware of the U.S. ambassador's presence at the MCP Headquarters" when they fired the teargas.

Local media reports indicated that the U.S. ambassador was meeting the MCP leader, Lazarus Chakwera, at the party's headquarters in the capital when the police fired teargas at the premises to disperse the party's supporters who had gathered there.

"We were dealing with a volatile situation where people believed to be MCP supporters were rioting and in trying to calm the situation, we fired teargas to disperse them from the party's Headquarters," the police spokesperson told the local radio, Zodiak.

"We did not know in the first place that the ambassador was there, we only knew it later," he added.

The U.S. Embassy in Malawi has since said it is yet to release a statement on the incident.

Three people were reported to have been shot during the Thursday fracas and, according to Zodiak, they are receiving treatment at the country's central referral hospital in the capital, Lilongwe.

But the police spokesperson denied having received any reports on the shooting. He, however, confirmed the arrest of MCP designate legislator and 17 supporters of the party "for inciting violence."

Incidentally, the U.S. Embassy in Malawi and the MCP Headquarters are premised next to each other in the capital and earlier media reports indicated that the teargas fired at the MCP Headquarters also affected the staff at the Embassy.

Since the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared the incumbent president Peter Mutharika winner in the May 21 presidential elections on May 27, the main opposition party supporters have been taking to the streets in "peaceful" protest against the results.

Meanwhile Chakwera and UTM (United Transformation Movement) leader, Saulos Chilima, have filed petitions to the country's high court to seek nullification of the presidential results. Enditem

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