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Ten dead in violent Malawi demonstrations

BLANTYRE, Malawi -- President Bingu wa Mutharika lashed out at anti-government demonstrators yesterday, as two days of protests left at least 10 people dead in unpre-cedented levels of unrest in the southern African nation.

Hospital officials and activists said victims were shot, and at least 44 others in the city of Mzuzu alone were being treated for gunshot wounds.

Mutharika vowed to "ensure peace using any measure I can think of" as protesters gathered for a second day in this impoverished country roiled by fuel shortages and price hikes.

"If you break shops and banks will you have fuel? You demonstrated yesterday and throughout the night until today, but is there fuel today because of the demonstrations?" he said.

"I think God will do something to help us, will bless us, because these people are not being led by God, they are being led by Satan."

Mutharika first came to power in 2004, and he was re-elected in May 2009. But tensions have been growing this year over worsening fuel shortages. High unemployment and a deteriorating economic situation also threaten to reverse development gains made early in his presidency.

On Wednesday, protesters attacked businesses belonging to the president's political allies. Looters in the capital of Lilongwe had targeted shops belonging to ruling party officials, witnesses said.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said eight journalists were beaten by police during Wednesday's protests, and a female radio reporter was seriously wounded.

Amnesty researcher Simeon Mawanza said the president's regime is becoming increasingly intolerant of dissenting voices. The situation was tense but calm yesterday amid a heavy military and police deployment on the streets in the country's two main cities.

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