Ugandan police clash with opposition as presidential poll nears

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Ugandan police clash with opposition
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Ugandan police clash with opposition as presidential poll nears
Student supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye burn posters of long-time President Yoweri Museveni, as they await the arrival of Besigye for a rally at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested Besigye himself on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Student supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye burn posters of long-time President Yoweri Museveni, as they await the arrival of Besigye for a rally at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested Besigye himself on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Residents hide behind a metal shop security grille as outside riot police chase angry supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, after he was prevented by police from reaching one of his campaign rallies, near to the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested Besigye himself on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye flashes the victory sign from his vehicle, as it is towed away by an armored personnel carrier, after he was prevented by police from reaching one of his campaign rallies, near to the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested Besigye himself on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
A military policeman runs past a burning barricade left by angry supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, after he was prevented by police from reaching one of his campaign rallies, near to the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested Besigye himself on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
An supporter of opposition leader Kizza Besigye flashes the victory sign towards riot police as they advance toward him firing tear gas, near to the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested Besigye himself on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye flashes the victory sign from his vehicle, as it is surrounded by riot police and an armored personnel carrier, right, prepares to tow it away with him inside, after he was prevented by police from reaching one of his campaign rallies, near to the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested Besigye himself on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Leading opposition leader and presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, center, flashes the victory sign from the front seat of a police truck after being arrested by riot police when he attempted to walk with his supporters along a street in downtown Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan riot police arrested Besigye after tear-gassing him and his supporters when they tried to go from one election rally to another. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Ugandan riot police fire tear gas at leading opposition leader and presidential candidate Kizza Besigye and his supporters when they attempted to walk down a street before arresting him in downtown Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan riot police arrested Besigye after tear-gassing him and his supporters when they tried to go from one election rally to another. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Military policemen walk towards a burning barricade left by angry supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, after he was prevented by police from reaching one of his campaign rallies, near to the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowd of opposition supporters and briefly arrested Besigye himself on Monday, raising tensions ahead of elections widely seen as close. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Supporters of leading opposition leader and presidential candidate Kizza Besigye cower in a shop doorway after riot police fired tear gas at them and Besigye when they attempted to walk along a street in downtown Kampala, Uganda Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Ugandan riot police arrested Besigye after tear-gassing him and his supporters when they tried to go from one election rally to another. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Uganda Anti-riot police officers arrest opposition leader, Kizza Besigye as he was walking on a busy Kampala street with his supporters moments after he was tear gassed by Ugandan riot police on February 15, 2016. Besigye was today arrested by Uganda police and taken to unknown police station. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Ugandan police fires tear gas in Kampala on February 15, 2016 to disperse opposition supporters as they arrested a top presidential challenger, Kizza Besigye, days ahead of presidential polls. The Daily Monitor newspaper reported he was arrested after trying to hold a rally in the centre of the capital, which police blocked. Besigye, a three-time failed presidential candidate, has been repeatedly arrested in the past, and is commonly released without charge hours later. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Uganda Anti-riot police officers arrest Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) opposition leader and top presidential challenger Kizza Besigye (C) and FDC MP for the Kampala district, Nabilah Naggayi Sempala (L) in Kampala on February 15, 2016 during a rally days ahead of presidential polls. The Daily Monitor newspaper reported he was arrested after trying to hold a rally in the centre of the capital, which police blocked. Besigye, a three-time failed presidential candidate, has been repeatedly arrested in the past, and is commonly released without charge hours later. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man gestures as Ugandan police walk to disperse supporters of main opposition leader, Dr Kizza Besigye arrested in Kampala on February 15, 2016 during a rally days ahead of presidential polls. The Daily Monitor newspaper reported he was arrested after trying to hold a rally in the centre of the capital, which police blocked. Besigye, a three-time failed presidential candidate, has been repeatedly arrested in the past, and is commonly released without charge hours later. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Uganda Military police put out a burning barricade that was lit by supporters of the opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala on February 15, 2016. Besigye was today arrested and denied access to his rally at Makerere university. Incumbent President Museveni is facing the hardest fight to keep his office as his main rival Kizza Besigye and his former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi have gained country wide support. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesting supporters of Opposition leader Kizza Besigye burn election posters of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala on February 15, 2016. Besigye was today arrested and denied access to his rally at Makerere university. Incumbent President Museveni is facing the hardest fight to keep his office as his main rival Kizza Besigye and his former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi have gained country wide support. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Ugandan female police officer is rushed away from supporters after she was hit by a tear gas cannister thrown back at the police line by protesting supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala on February 15, 2016, two days before the Uganda's Presidential elections. Besigye was today arrested and denied access to his rally at Makerere university. Incumbent President Museveni is facing the hardest fight to keep his office as his main rival Kizza Besigye and his former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi have gained country wide support. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye demonstrate in Kampala on February 15, 2016, two days before the Uganda's Presidential elections. Besigye was today arrested and denied access to his rally at Makerere university. Incumbent President Museveni is facing the hardest fight to keep his office as his main rival Kizza Besigye and his former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi have gained country wide support. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Uganda Military police secure the area after a demonstration of supporters of the opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala on February 15, 2016, two days before the Uganda's Presidential elections. Besigye was today arrested and denied access to his rally at Makerere university. Incumbent President Museveni is facing the hardest fight to keep his office as his main rival Kizza Besigye and his former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi have gained country wide support. / AFP / ISAAC KASAMANI (Photo credit should read ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / People gather around the body of man on a Kampala street on February 15, 2016, after he was allegedly killed during clashes between police and supporters of Uganda's opposition leader. At least one person was killed on February 15 as Ugandan police fought running battles with opposition supporters, firing tear gas and briefly detaining a top presidential challenger days ahead of polls to elect the head of state. Kizza Besigye, a three-time failed presidential candidate who heads the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, was held after street clashes as he campaigned in the capital Kampala ahead of the February 18 election. / AFP / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
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KAMPALA, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Ugandan police fought running battles with supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala, in the worst outbreak of violence yet during campaigning for Thursday's presidential election.

Several people were wounded on Monday as police fired bullets and tear gas while opposition supporters hurled rocks and erected street barricades in the capital's Wandegeya suburb, witnesses said. Hours earlier, police briefly detained Besigye.

"I have seen people shot although we're yet to know how many exactly," said Ingrid Turinawe, a senior official from Besigye's Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.

"Many people (were) on the road bleeding, the situation is still very tense."

Besigye is expected to be one of two main election challengers to veteran leader Yoweri Museveni, who will attempt to extend a 30-year hold on power that his opponents say has been increasingly underpinned by state intimidation and rampant corruption.

Several opposition supporters were arrested on Monday, said a Reuters photographer who also saw one person passed out in a large pool of blood, either dead or critically wounded.

Witnesses said streets were calmer in the evening but the violence has fueled tensions before the Feb. 18 election, which Besigye and six other candidates will contest alongside Museveni.

'OPTIONS CURTAILED'

Besigye and Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and secretary general of the ruling party, have both attracted large crowds, but Museveni is expected to beat them in a poll analysts view as his toughest political challenge yet.

Earlier, Besigye was briefly detained by security services, FDC officials said, after they asked him and his supporters to use a different route for their march.

A government spokesman said all campaigning has been prohibited in Kampala's central business district, where FDC supporters were heading.

"It's unacceptable because it's congested already, so Besigye had to be stopped," Shaban Bantariza, deputy government spokesman, said.

The opposition leader has lost three previous presidential elections against Museveni and has been arrested many times, with police accusing him and his supporters of holding illegal rallies.

His supporters say such arrests are part of government intimidation tactics. They also accuse Museveni of rigging polls and using state funds to prop up his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM). Officials deny all such claims.

Semujju Nganda, spokesman for the FDC, said Besigye had been barred from staging rallies in a Kampala stadium, and the party's options to campaign curtailed.

"This has left us with no choice but to address voters on the streets and roads," Nganda told Uganda's Monitor newspaper after Besigye's arrest.

All parties are expected to stage final rallies on Tuesday, which is a national holiday.

Museveni is credited with restoring economic and political stability after years of turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s. But unemployment, especially among the youth, has surged under his rule and critics accuse him of failing to tame corruption. (Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Hugh Lawson and John Stonestreet)

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