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Six Dead, 1,000 Arrested, in Zambian Food Riots

December 10, 1986 GMT

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) _ Troops were rushed to towns in the northern copper region where rioting and looting over food price hikes left six people dead from police gunfire. Authorities reported 1,000 arrests of looters.

Zambian journalists reporting from Kitwe, scene of the worst violence on Tuesday, said troops rushed to the province today, and that a looter was killed by police. There were no details.

Kitwe is in the heart of the copper mining region, about 225 miles northeast of the capital, and has a population of about 400,000.

The semi-official news agency, ZANA, reported that at the height of rioting in Kitwe the district governor, Bill Chanda, was beaten up.

Rioters looted shops, homes and offices, overturned and set fire to cars, and damaged the offices of the ruling United National Independence Party in Kalulushi.

The Zambian reporterssaid it was the worst civil unrest since President Kenneth Kaunda led the former British colony of Northern Rhodesia to independence on Oct. 24, 1964.

Employers urged workers to stay home today, and many offices and businesses in Lusaka were closed although the violence so far has not spread to the capital.

The Times of Zambia newspaper, published by the ruling party, carried a front page photograph today of a youth grasping at a chest wound and said he had been shot by paramilitary troops.

Witnesses in copperbelt towns said police used teargas and baton charges at first to break up the rioters. But later they fired live bullets at the mobs.

Police sources said the death toll from the violence since Monday could be as high as eight, but there were no official reports of casualties. Unofficial reports said there were six deaths.

A reporter for the government newspaper Zambia Mail reported from Kitwe that he saw police fire their rifles at a mob of looters who were stealing six Peugeot cars from a shorwoom. Several people were wounded, he said.

Hospitals were reported saying they admitted people with gunshot wounds in the towns of Chingola, Kalalushi, Kitwe and Mufulira.

Home Affairs Minister Cosmas Chibanda said Tuesday that the country was closing its borders ″because of the serious situation″ but he said authorities did not intend to bar visitors. It was not clear what the order meant but the British Broadcasting Corp. quoted Lusaka radio as saying the closure was intended to prevent people from leaving.

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Kaunda last month lifted subsidies on food, which caused the price of the 110-pound bags to rise to about $8.20. The average wage here is about $7 a month.

Kaunda withdrew the subsidy as a key condition for securing International Monetary Fund credits.

Zambia’s economy is in its worst shape since independence. Foreign debts amount to over $4 billion, and debt service requirements drain more than 40 percent of the governments export income, 90 percent of which comes from copper sales.