The authorities in Malawi have halted the mass funeral of seven protesters who were killed during this week’s anti-government protests.

President Bingu wa Mutharika ordered the Mzuzu city council to stop the funerals to avoid further unrest.

At least 18 people have died, many reportedly shot by police, in nationwide demonstrations.

Protesters accuse Mr Mutharika of plunging Malawi into its worst economic crisis since independence.

After the funerals were blocked, religious leaders and civil society members agreed to hold the funeral at the Heroes Acre in the northern city of Mzuzu.

But the head of Mzuzu’s council said the protesters could not be buried at the Heroes Acre because they were looters.

“We have been stopped by the government with our arrangements to bury the seven heroes,” Moses Mkandawire, director of the Church and Society rights group, told AFP news agency.

Graves had already been dug at Zolzolo cemetery and mourners had started gathering when the funerals were blocked, AFP reports.

Mr Mkandawire said the government itself had promised to arrange transportation for the bodies.

Some of the mourners insist they must bury their dead at the city’s Heroes Acre.

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