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Ugandan police shoot opposition leader during protest march

Military police officers shot Uganda's top opposition politician yesterday and fired tear gas into a hospital during demonstrations against rising fuel and food prices.

Kizza Besigye, who came second to President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda's presidential election in February, was hit in the right hand. He was taking part in a "walk to work" protest against rising commodity prices, officials said.

The march was the second this week in Kampala that Mr Besigye had organised in an effort to force the government to bring down the soaring costs of food and fuel in Uganda. He criticised Mr Museveni's government for what he called its "reckless expenditure," citing the recent purchase of Russian fighter jets for nearly $750m (£460m) and an unexpected budget supplement exceeding $250m.

A spokeswoman for the Ugandan Red Cross, Catherine Ntabadde, said Mr Besigye was hit by a bullet fired by military police as they tried to disperse a crowd of his supporters. Ms Ntabadde said she did not know if it was a rubber bullet or a real one.

"Military police coming from Kampala confronted the crowd," she said. "They could have shot him accidentally. We took him to hospital for treatment."

A police spokeswoman confirmed that Mr Besigye had been shot at. She said the police were investigating the circumstances.

After the shooting Ugandan youths allegedly began harassing the police. Some demonstrators sought shelter in a nearby hospital, from where they threw rocks at authorities. Police responded by firing tear gas.

A hospital worker in the town of Kasangati, just outside Uganda's capital,Kampala, said patients had been affected by the tear gas and that some mothers had had to move sick children from their beds to escape the gas.

Mr Besigye had already been arrested on Monday, along with several members of parliament, during a similar march against high commodity prices. He was taken away by authorities again yesterday after leaving hospital.

Rising prices sparked protests in at least four other cities yesterday. West of Kampala, in Mbarara, motorcycle taxi drivers used their bikes to block the road. The price of a litre of petrol has increased in Uganda from about $1.05 to almost $1.50 over the last month.

The inspector general of police, Kale Kayihura, called the protests illegal and said police would arrest those who got involved.