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In Central African Republic Central Africans vote in referendum for second day after violence

The military commander of Central African Republic's U.N. peacekeeping mission said repeated attacks on a polling station in PK5, the city's main Muslim enclave on Sunday, were an attempt by "spoilers" to block the vote.

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United Nations peacekeepers from Gabon stand alongside a road before the Pope Francis' arrival at the refugee camp of Saint Sauveur, in the capital Bangui, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini play United Nations peacekeepers from Gabon stand alongside a road before the Pope Francis' arrival at the refugee camp of Saint Sauveur, in the capital Bangui, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini (Reuters)

Voters defied a day of armed clashes in Central African Republic to have their say on a new constitution seen as vital to ending violence in a hastily arranged second session of polling on Monday.

At least five people were killed and 34 others wounded, according to a Red Cross official, in clashes in the capital Bangui on Sunday during what was intended to be a single day of voting.

Approval of the new constitution would pave the way for long-delayed presidential and legislative elections on Dec. 27, and armed groups opposed to the process also used violence and threats to impede polling elsewhere in the landlocked nation.

The military commander of Central African Republic's U.N. peacekeeping mission said repeated attacks on a polling station in PK5, the city's main Muslim enclave on Sunday, were an attempt by "spoilers" to block the vote.

While there were reports of some disruption on Monday, voting was peaceful compared with Sunday.

"Those who tried to disrupt the vote yesterday have come to their senses. No shots were fired (today)," said Julius Rufin Nguoade-Baba, spokesman for the National Elections Agency (ANE). "Initial trends in Bangui show a large majority for 'Yes'."

On Monday, the streets of Bangui were calm, with soldiers from the U.N. mission visible at key junctions.

The PK5 enclave, where a day earlier fighters armed with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked voters, saw heavy turnout at its two polling stations.

"Thousands of people are voting," said Ousmane Abakar, a spokesman for the Muslim community of PK5. "We are determined to vote despite (yesterday's) shooting."

Former colonial power France has been among nations pushing interim authorities to hold elections, saying they are the only way to end a cycle of violence that began when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in 2013.

Their abuses triggered reprisals by Christian anti-balaka militias. Thousands of people have been killed and around one-in-five Central Africans has been displaced in violence that has led to de facto partition.

A spokesman for the prime minister's office had earlier said that voters in some northern parts of the country were not able to participate because fighters loyal to Noureddine Adam, a commander in the Seleka rebel coalition, had blocked the vote.

Adam's faction says conditions, such as the return of refugees, are not in place to allow for inclusive polls. They had called for the referendum and elections to be cancelled and the establishment of a new transitional government.

Voting ended in the afternoon and results should be available within 72 hours, ANE president Marie-Madeleine N'Kouet said.

Pope Francis visited Bangui last month to implore both Christians and Muslims to end a spiral of hate. Clashes halted briefly during his visit but more killings have been reported since.

Two successive interim governments as well as thousands of U.N. peacekeepers and the deployment of French soldiers have failed to stop the fighting.

While Central African Republic possesses diamonds, uranium, and gold, its people are among the world's poorest.

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