BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic's defense minister on Friday accused opposition politicians of being behind violent protests that saw demonstrators clash with security forces in the capital, Bangui.
Angry youths blocked the riverside capital's main streets with burning barricades on Thursday and gunfire erupted as the security forces sought to put down the protest.
They vandalized monuments to President Francois Bozize and broke into a jail, freeing hundreds of prisoners. Fifteen demonstrators and three gendarmes were hurt in the ensuing clashes.
"We know that these youth were manipulated by politicians, but the opposition should understand that these acts dishonor both them and our youth," Defense Minister Jean-Francis Bozize, who is the president's son, said on state radio.
President Bozize took power in a 2003 coup before winning elections in 2005. He won a new mandate in January polls, the results of which were dismissed by opponents as fraudulent.
Thursday's violence was provoked by the state radio's announcement of results from an examination meant to select 600 new gendarmes from more than 5,000 candidates. Protesters accused the government of manipulating the results to favor members of Bozize's Gbaya ethnic group.
"Bozize's clan regime must understand that the time for this diabolical method of failing exam candidates because they're not from his tribe or his party is over," demonstrator Jean-Pierre Limbio told Reuters.
"We are all Central Africans," he said.
CAR is one of the world's least-developed nations and corruption and instability in the landlocked country, where rebel groups operate, has discouraged investment in its gold, uranium and diamond deposits.
(Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by David Lewis)