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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Violent protests in Liberia over the presence of armed guards in mining areas in the country’s northwest killed one demonstrator and left several injured, a government official said.

Both protesters and police were armed when the clashes erupted on Thursday in the mining town of Kinjor, according to the minister of information and culture, Jeronlinmek Piah. He told reporters that the death is being investigated and that 18 protesters were arrested.

The protests followed a demand by the mining district’s lawmaker, Mohammed Dosii, who on Tuesday asked for an immediate withdrawal of armed guards in the community and at the gold mine operated by Bea Mountain Mining Company.

“Our people need free movement and the army needs to be in the barracks and not among civilians,” Dosii told lawmakers in the House of Representatives. Contracting armed officers prioritized the interests of foreign companies that deplete Liberia’s mineral wealth, over the safety of its citizens, he added.

Piah, the information minister, blamed at a news conference on Thursday the discontent in the mining sector on the previous administration, led by former President George Weah who lost the election last November to Joseph Boakai.

FILE - Nowa Paye, 9, is taken to an ambulance after showing signs of the Ebola infection in the village of Freeman Reserve, about 30 miles north of Monrovia, Liberia, on Sept. 30, 2014. Liberians gathered Wednesday, March 13, 2024 to commemorate a decade since the country was first hit by a devastating outbreak of Ebola that killed thousands in West Africa, adding to the region's economic and political troubles. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

In this picture taken from video, Liberia's new President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, front left, is sworn into office in Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, after a narrow win in the November elections to become the country's oldest-ever president. The 79-year-old Boakai has promised to unite and rescue Africa's oldest republic from its economic woes, ranging from chronic corruption to an ailing economy. (AP Photo)

Weah was elected in 2017 after promising to fight corruption, poverty and generate infrastructure development. It was the first democratic transfer of power in the mineral-rich West African nation since the end of the country’s back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that killed some 250,000 people.

Boakai, 78, campaigned on a promise to rescue Liberia from what he called Weah’s failed leadership.

Liberia has seen many protests over its mining sector, rich in gold, iron ore and diamonds, mostly over poor working conditions and the perception that foreign workers are given more opportunities over Liberian nationals.

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