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Congo Republic president reelected to 3rd term, interior minister says

Denis Sassou Nguesso again captured the president's office after the constitution was amended to allow him to seek a third term.

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Congo Prepublic President Denis Sassou Nguesso speaks during a news conference at Carthage Palace in Tunis in this January 22, 2015 file photo. Nguesso has won re-election with 60.39 percent of the vote, extending his 32-year rule of the oil-producing country, the interior minister said on March 24, 2016.

REUTERS/Anis Mili

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Congo Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso has won a new five-year term with more than 60 percent of the vote, the interior minister said on Thursday, extending his decades-long rule over the oil-producing nation.

Opposition candidates have alleged election fraud, however, and said on Wednesday that their own results show Sassou Nguesso headed for defeat, although they have yet to provide their own figures.

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Interior Minister Raymond Zephyrin Mboulou said on state television early on Thursday morning that opposition leader Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas won 15 percent support in Sunday's vote, while retired general Jean-Marie Mokoko won 14 percent.

In an interview with Radio France Internationale, Mokoko called for an independent commission to review the tallies from individual polling stations.

Residents said Brazzaville and the economic capital Pointe Noire, an opposition stronghold, were quiet but tense on Thursday as opposition supporters waited for their candidates to publish their results.

Police and soldiers continued to patrol the streets, but the government on Thursday lifted a blackout on Internet and mobile phone use that it said was meant to prevent unofficial results circulating and causing unrest.

At least 18 people were killed by security forces in protests ahead of a referendum in October that removed term and age limits that would have prevented the 72-year-old Sassou Nguesso from running again.

Three French journalists from the newspaper Le Monde and Agence France-Presse were beaten up as they left an opposition news conference on Wednesday by four men in civilian attire who identified themselves as police, Le Monde's director said in a statement. The three had their passports and equipment seized, he said.

A government spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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Sassou Nguesso came to power in 1979 and governed until 1992, when he lost an election. In 1997, he regained power after a civil war and then won elections in 2002 and 2009 at which there were allegations of fraud.

He campaigned this time on a promise to develop the country's infrastructure and commit a quarter of the state budget to education to tackle high youth unemployment in the nation of 4.5 million.

Congo's election has been watched closely across Africa, where several long-ruling presidents are trying to remove constitutionally mandated term limits so that they can stay in power.