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Protester shot dead as unrest continues over disputed Honduras election

At least one opposition protester has died in shootings in Honduras after the country announced a curfew and suspended some constitutional rights in the face of unrest over a disputed election.

As the ballot count entered its sixth day on Saturday, the national police force said a 19-year-old woman was shot dead at a protest supporting opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla by gunmen who witnesses say were police.

Police said another man was seriously wounded in the same shooting but his whereabouts are unclear, and he is also believed to have died.

"We still do not know if the assailants were police officers or not, but the case is being thoroughly investigated," a statement from the police said.

The protests were reminiscent of the 2009 coup that ousted former president Manuel Zelaya, whose Libre party is part of the coalition led by Mr Nasralla that formed in a bid to unseat President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

The country's electoral court had finished counting nearly 95% of the ballot boxes from the November 26 presidential election by late on Friday and said it would conduct a hand count of 1,031 other boxes that presented "inconsistencies".

Mr Hernandez held a lead of more than 46,000 votes over Mr Nasralla before the last-stage count. It was not immediately clear how many votes could be at play in the uncounted boxes.

But mistrust mounted amid strange delays in the vote count and the sudden reversal of Mr Nasralla's early lead.

Rock-wielding protesters have increasingly taken to the streets against riot police armed with tear gas, batons and water cannons.

National police spokesman Jair Meza said 12 people had been wounded in clashes between police and protesters.

The Coalition Against Impunity, a network of human rights organisations, said in a report that security forces had used lethal ammunition and that four other protesters are believed to have been killed during clashes.

Mr Meza said numerous businesses were damaged and looted in the capital and in San Pedro Sula, where local press reported that protesters had set a bank branch on fire.

By Saturday, Mr Meza said more than 300 people had been detained for looting as they streamed out of shopping centres with electronics and other goods in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Groups of demonstrators also continued blocking highways with burning tyres and other debris, in some cases forcing parents to carry their children through the smoking barriers.

In a decree read out on radio and television, the government's Cabinet chief Jorge Hernandez said late on Friday that some constitutional guarantees would be suspended for 10 days to allow the army and police to control the situation.

The government declared a curfew from 6pm to 6am across the country.

"The curfew is to safeguard the security of the country," President Hernandez said as he left a hotel in the capital after meeting with observers from the Organisation of American States and the European Union.

"This is the time for the people to feel supported by their armed forces and their police because it cannot be that somebody decides to loot or rob."

AP

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