DJIBOUTI (AP) _ President Hassan Gouled Aptidon, ruler of this east African country since independence, was declared the winner Saturday in its first contested presidential election. Opponents claimed the vote was rife with fraud.

The Interior Ministry said Aptidon received 60.7 percent of the vote in Friday's balloting. Mohamed Djama Elabe of the Party for Democratic Renewal was second with 22 percent. Three other candidates split the remainder.

Nearly half the 150,000 eligible voters cast ballots in the former French colony, which gained independence in 1977.

Djibouti, a tiny coastal nation of 500,000 people north of Somalia, has been embroiled in an ethnic-based conflict since November 1991.

A faction that has fought in northern and western regions for the Afar group boycotted the vote. Aptidon and his challengers belonged to the dominant Issa ethnic group.

The election was marred by charges of fraud. Opposition politicians claimed unregistered soldiers and underage teen-age voters cast hundreds of bogus ballots.

The victory gives Aptidon another six years in office. He won his previous terms unchallenged.