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Togo Authorities Call for Crackdown on Violent Protesters

Togo's interim government warns that security forces will detain all those acting illegally in the wake of increasing violence following controversial elections Sunday. Clashes involving angry opposition militants have already killed at least 20 people, but some residents say the number could be much higher.

In a speech on state television, interim leader Abass Bonfoh said he was asking all security forces to arrest those who go against the rule of law and order.

He also said any self-proclamation of being president by a losing candidate was "pure fantasy, null and void."

Earlier in the day, opposition candidate Emmanuel Akitani-Bob did just that, saying he was president of all Togolese and even adding he would pardon soldiers killing innocent civilians in the wake of the election.

Togo's electoral commission has said Faure Gnassingbe, the son of the late four-decade ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema, won the election, which was marred by allegations of fraud, with more than 60 percent of the vote.

The West African grouping ECOWAS as well as the United States have said there were serious problems with the poll, but urged the opposition to join a government of national unity.

The opposition has rejected this, saying it cannot associate itself with what it calls cheaters and oppressors.

Violence continued Wednesday, and spread outside Lome to areas near the border with Benin where angry opposition militants burned office buildings and looted foreign-owned shops.

A candidate who pulled out just before the election because he said he feared there would be fraud, Nicolas Lawson, says these youths have nothing to lose.

"We have nothing here,” said Mr. Lawson. “We are going to destroy a system and then we sit down and plan and then develop our country. If you don't destroy the system you can never change the whole thing so I think that it is coming for the Togolese people themselves to use their power to make a revolution to destroy the system so that we build something new."

Lome itself has been divided in pro-Gnassingbe neighborhoods where militants have held noisy motorcades to celebrate his victory, and tense opposition strongholds where army soldiers fire bullets throughout the day and night, chasing down militants and trying to dismantle their barricades.

The interior minister says opposition militants have targeted foreigners, including nationals from Niger, the country currently holding the presidency of ECOWAS. He says at least eight Nigeriens were found burned to death with gasoline. Opposition militants accuse the army of killing dozens of civilians and say dozens of others have disappeared.

Information has been difficult to confirm because phone lines inside Togo are almost completely shut down.

The violence has prompted thousands to leave Lome by foot in the direction of Benin and Ghana's nearby borders.

ECOWAS called for Sunday's election after forcing Mr. Gnassingbe to step down when he initially took power in a coup following his father's death in February. Togo's constitutional court is due to formally validate his election victory next week, which many residents fear will fuel even more violence.