Ethiopian police clashed on Saturday with scores of Muslims protesters complaining that the state is interfering in their religion, witnesses and officials said.

The protesters, some wearing masks, blocked the entrance of the Anwar Mosque in the west of the capital Addis Ababa and hurled stones at riot police who had surrounded the compound after noon prayers.

The protesters say the government is promoting the ideas of the group through Ethiopia's highest Muslim body, the Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs, and preventing overdue elections that could bring alternative views onto the Council.

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said police had arrested "several" people on Saturday but denied that police had used teargas. Activists have reported several deaths during previous clashes, but no casualties were reported on Saturday.

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