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Sierra Leone president well ahead in vote count

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JOHN WESSELS/AFP or licensors

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio looked on course for re-election on Monday after the electoral commission said he had a clear lead with 60 percent of the votes counted.

Bio had garnered 55.86 percent of ballots cast, more than the 55 percent required for victory after Saturday's first round of voting.

The incumbent's 1,067,666 votes put him well ahead of his main rival Samura Kamara, who had 793,751 votes or 41.53 percent, the commission said.

Final results were expected within 48 hours, said election commission chief Mohamed Kenewui Konneh.

Some 3.4 million people were registered to vote in Saturday's election.

Twelve men and one woman stood for president, but Bio's main challenger was Kamara of the All People's Congress (APC).

Bio, of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), narrowly beat Kamara in a runoff in 2018.

The president, 59, a former coup leader in the 1990s, has championed education and women's rights in his first civilian term.

Kamara, 72, a former foreign and finance minister, is facing a protracted trial over allegations that he misappropriated public funds as foreign minister, a case he says is politically motivated.

Security forces on Sunday night violently dispersed opposition supporters at the headquarters of the APC party in Freetown, even though the election was largely peaceful, and calm had returned by Monday.

A woman was killed in the unrest, an APC spokesman said.

- 'Really traumatic' -

"She was on the ground floor in the medical unit. She is a nurse. We have a small dispensary in our headquarters where she worked," the spokesman said.

The woman's 25-year-old son, Ibrahim Conteh, said that he had identified his mother's body at the morgue.

"I need justice. I just want to know" who killed my mother, he said in tears.

Police did not confirm the death, while saying they had fired tear gas canisters "to disperse the crowd which was disturbing people on the road".

Abu Bakar Kargbo, 42, a member of a UK-based opposition party, said the incident was "like a horror film".

"After a while, we realised that live rounds were being fired," he said. "It was terrifying... It was like the end of the world."

Reporters saw blood and bullet holes inside the APC headquarters early Monday.

Hannah, a party secretary who did not want to give her last name, returned early Monday morning to collect her bag and belongings which she had left the previous night.

"People were dancing and celebrating outside. They were happy. All of a sudden, I heard shots and tear gas," she said, her voice hoarse.

"It was really traumatic... I cried."

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