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In Ghana Armed men in military uniform raid opposition party HQ

Whatever its origin, Cephas said it was the first such act for years in Ghana, a democratic country that prides itself on peaceful politics and regular changes of power.

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Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) at his private residence in Accra, December 5, 2012 REUTERS/Luc Gnago play Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) at his private residence in Accra, December 5, 2012 REUTERS/Luc Gnago (Reuters)

Armed men in military uniform raided the headquarters of Ghana's main opposition party on Monday in an attack that raises political tension one year ahead of a presidential election that is likely to be closely fought.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) said around 15 men backed by military and police vehicles vandalised its offices in a downtown neighbourhood at around 1 a.m. (0100 GMT), confiscated computer equipment and claimed to have found weapons.

It was not clear who conducted the break-in and police spokesman Cephas Arthur told Reuters an initial investigation suggested it was a "civilian raid" rather than one carried out by the security forces.

Whatever its origin, Cephas said it was the first such act for years in Ghana, a democratic country that prides itself on peaceful politics and regular changes of power.

The election will pit President John Mahama against Nana Akufo-Addo whom he narrowly defeated in 2012. Mahama's National Democratic Congress party renominated him as its candidate on Monday.

Mahama's chances of winning a second and final term have been hurt by chronic power cuts that have angered voters and a sharp slowdown in an economy that was one of the continent's fastest growing, based on its exports of gold, oil and cocoa.

For its part, the main opposition party faces an internal rift and its chairman, Paul Afoko, has been suspended. Supporters of the rival NPP factions clashed in the country's second city of Kumasi this month and one person died.

Party officials say the simmering row will hurt NPP election chances unless it is resolved. NPP communications director Nana Akomea released a detailed statement on the raid and said the party did not know who conducted it.

"The three remaining party officials were made to surrender their phones and herded into the security post and locked up. A couple of minutes later, the military uniform men ordered them out," the statement said.

"They (the armed men) produced a sack and proceeded to pour the contents out on the floor. The contents included four AK-47s and four machetes which the military uniformed men claimed to have found on the compound," it said.

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