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President declares emergency in Comoros; secessionists remain defiant

September 10, 1997

MUTSAMUDU, Comoros (AP) _ Rebels who launched a drive for an island homeland apart from the Indian Ocean nation of Comoros demanded the president’s resignation Wednesday, just a day after he declared a state of emergency.

President Mohamed Taki assumed emergency powers Tuesday, following a military invasion that failed to quash a rebellion on the secessionist island of Anjouan. Taki dismissed not only top military and civilian advisers but also the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Abdou.

Anjouan, one of four in the Comoros islands off the east coast of Africa between Mozambique and Madagascar, declared its independence from the Comoros government in July.

The president said the state of emergency would not exceed 45 days and justified it by ``the blockage of constitutional institutions and the menace hanging over the territorial integrity″ of the nation.

Comorian troops withdrew Friday from Anjouan after facing stiff resistance from separatists. The rebels say they want to be reunited with France, their former colonial ruler.

On Anjouan, secessionist spokesman Mohamed Abdou Madi said he opposed negotiations with authorities in Moroni, the capital, ``as long as the present Comorian president remains in power.″

The situation remained calm after last week’s fighting between secessionists and 300 government troops. Red Cross officials say 40 people died and 25 were wounded during the abortive government raid.

By late Tuesday, electricity was restored along with sea and air links to the rest of the Comorian archipelago, home to about 570,000 people mostly of Arab and African descent.

Jean Louis Macheron of Pharmacists Without Borders said 13 badly wounded civilians and a number of French citizens had been evacuated to adjoining islands.

The Comoros won their independence in 1975. The separatists, however, believe they would have better development, health and education opportunities under French rule.

Madi said the secessionists were organizing an army on the island and were trying to disarm civilians. He also said they were weighing what to do with 84 Comorian army soldiers captured during the fighting.