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Gambia Elections Marred By Violence - 2001-10-18

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh was seeking a second term in Thursday's presidential election, following a campaign that was marred by violence. First results of the voting are not expected before Friday.

Observers in Banjul, the Gambian capital, reported long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots by the time the polls opened, shortly after dawn.

Voters were choosing between President Yahya Jammeh and four challengers. Only one of the opposition candidates, Ousainou Darboe, is seen as having a chance of unseating the incumbent.

Though evidently worried by the recent campaign violence, voters expressed hope the election would be peaceful, as well as free and fair.

Violence on Tuesday marred what had until then been a relatively peaceful campaign. Witnesses reported a 25 year old man was killed when police opened fire at an opposition rally. In turn, angry protesters attacked the home of a ruling party member of parliament, setting it ablaze.

The international community is hoping the recent clashes are not a foretaste of things to come. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on Gambia to ensure a fair election. He dispatched former Ghanaian Foreign Minister James Victor Gbeho to observe the vote on behalf of the world body.

President Jammeh took power in a military coup in 1994, ousting Gambia's longtime ruler, Dawda Jawara. He defeated Mr. Darboe in 1996, in an election most foreign observers called flawed.

Early results are expected Friday.