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Maldives police break up anti-gov't protest

Maldives police used tear gas and batons to break up a protest early Sunday demanding that President Mohamad Nasheed step down. Dozens of people were injured and many were arrested.

Thousands of protesters converged on the capital, Male, on Saturday night to rally against economic hardship, alleged government mismanagement and wasteful spending. Organizers said about 5,000 people demonstrated overnight.

Police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam said officers asked the protesters to leave but the demonstrators started throwing objects at the police. He said 10 people were arrested for damaging property.

Mohammed Shareef, a spokesman for the opposition Dhivehi Raithunge Party, said about 30 protesters were taken away by police, including a party lawmaker and leading activists.

He said dozens of people were hospitalized with injuries, but it was not possible to immediately confirm his account.

Shareef said the demonstration was organized to protest the government's alleged inaction on rising unemployment and soaring prices of essential items caused by the devaluation of the currency.

Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago of 1,200 islets inhabited by around 300,000 people, has a tourism-driven economy. Nasheed was elected president in the country's first multiparty election in 2008 after 30 years of authoritarian rule.