Comoros vice-president survives assassination attempt
Comoros Vice President Moustoidrane Abdou escaped an assassination attempt early on Sunday when his vehicle was fired on days before a controversial referendum on constitutional reform, a security source said.
"His car was seriously damaged but the vice-president is unhurt, there are no victims," the source, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
Abdou was travelling to his home village of Sima in the west of Anjouan island when assailants on a motorcycle raked his car with automatic gunfire near the island's biggest town of Mutsamudu, said the source.
The attackers escaped, the source added.
Authorities dispatched investigators from the capital Moroni on Grande Comore, the largest of the country's three main islands, following the incident.
Abdou, one of the country's three vice-presidents, holds the portfolios of production and energy in the government of President Azali Assoumani.
Assoumani, elected in 2016, has called a referendum for 30 July on a constitutional reform that could allow him to seek re-election and retain power beyond 2021, when his currently non-renewable term would otherwise end.
Under the current constitution, power rotates every five years between the archipelago's three main islands.
The nation was plunged into crisis in April when Assoumani suspended the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, sparking opposition protests.
One of his leading critics, former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, was placed under house arrest, while another prominent opposition leader was jailed following violent clashes between security forces and anti-government demonstrators.
Abdou's fellow vice-president Ahmed Said Jaffar last month dubbed the referendum illegal and urged Comorans to "reject the dangerous abuse" of power.
The archipelago, which is situated in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar and is one of the world's poorest countries, was repeatedly shaken by separatist movements and instability prior to the passing of a new constitution in 2001 providing for the rotation of power between the islands.
The president does not have the power to dismiss the three vice-presidents under that constitution, but Assoumani's reform proposals would allow him to abolish their posts.
The former colonel first seized power in a coup in 1999, then won a democratic election in 2002.
Assoumani, who went on to win a 2016 election marred by violence and allegations of voting irregularities, said in May that "consulting the people is the most democratic process for modifying the constitution".