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Influential Mozambique lawyer shot dead

Gilles Cistac has been gunned down in cold blood on the streets of Maputo, police said. An influential lawyer and academic, he was involved in the debate on the decentralization of power in Mozambique.

Mozambican lawyer Gilles Cistac, who had said opposition calls for decentralization of power were backed by law, was shot dead in the capital, Maputo, on Tuesday.

The police said a car carrying four men pulled up alongside the taxi Cistac was travelling in and fired several shots.

The Maputo Central Hospital confirmed that the 54-year-old had died from his injuries.

Cistac was professor of law at the Mozambique's University of Eduardo Mondlane and worked in several government advisory roles.

Cistac's political stance

The lawyer, a Mozambican of French origin, was a central figure in a debate about the creation of autonomous states in Mozambique.

The southeast African state's main opposition party Renamo had called for its politicians to govern regions where it had won more votes than the ruling Frelimo party in last year's elections.

Cistac was recently quoted in the local media as saying the creation of autonomous regions would be allowed under the constitution.

This was considered to be a controversial stance as the Renamo opposition had also proposed that Mozambique should be divided into two countries.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi also agreed with Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama that parliament should debate the creation of autonomous regions.

There had been concerns in recent years that Mozambique could slip back into conflict after Renamo, a former rebel group, withdrew from a 1992 peace deal that ended a 16-year civil war.

The presidency released a statement in response to Cistac's assassination.

"We condemn the attack and demand that the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice," presidential spokesman Antonio Gaspar said. "The government has instructed the interior ministry to hunt and arrest those who assassinated Cistac so that they can be severely punished."

The southeast African state has attracted billions of dollars of foreign investment in recent years following the discovery of major coal and gas resources.

lw/jil (AP, Reuters)