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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hundreds Arrested in Baku Opposition Crackdown

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Police arrested hundreds of Azeri opposition supporters and armed men reportedly hauled away an opposition leader on Saturday as the new president vowed to clamp down on protests against his contested election.

Officials said the arrests had taken place in overnight raids. Meanwhile, the wife of opposition Democratic Party leader Serdar Calaloglu said armed men wearing masks had kicked down the door of his apartment and dragged him away.

The OSCE democracy watchdog group had criticized Wednesday's poll, citing cases of ballot-stuffing, intimidation of the opposition and police violence. The opposition said it had been robbed of victory.

The newly elected president, Ilham Aliyev, said Saturday there would be no repeat of riots seen the day after the poll when, an official in his party said, two people were killed in clashes between protesters and truncheon-wielding police.

He accused Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar, runner-up in the election, of being behind the riots, in which some 3,000 protesters hurled stones, overturned cars and fought police. "Isa Gambar should expect the judgment of the Azeri people as a provocateur and a person who has blood on his hands," Aliyev told reporters at an Independence Day ceremony.

Gambar, who as a presidential candidate enjoys immunity until official results are announced, was defiant in an interview at his Baku flat, which he said was under police surveillance. Three foreign observers were staying with him.

"No threats will intimidate me and my comrades-in-arms. We will continue a peaceful struggle for democracy in accordance with the constitution of Azerbaijan," he said. Gambar dismissed suggestions he may ask for political asylum abroad.