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Police fire water cannon on protesters near Apec in Manila

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Police armed with riot shields fired water cannon and scuffled on Thursday with demonstrators in the Philippine capital, less than a kilometer from where Asia- Pacific leaders were meeting.

[MANILA] Police armed with riot shields fired water cannon and scuffled on Thursday with demonstrators in the Philippine capital, less than a kilometer from where Asia- Pacific leaders were meeting.

Waving placards criticising the Philippine government for its close ties to the US, hundreds of protesters shouted slogans against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum as they were pushed back by the police.

Parts of Manila have been brought to a virtual standstill amid tight security for Apec, with police taking extra measures after last Friday's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. Many roads - usually clogged with traffic - were blocked off and two days of public holidays declared to keep people away from the meeting areas, while hundreds of flights have been delayed or canceled.

The Associated Press said there were about 1,000 protesters in the area, airing a grab bag of grievances.

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"We will use reasonable force if necessary," police spokesman Wilben Mayor said Thursday at a briefing. The water cannon was not turned to a level intended to cause injury and was used to "cool down the emotions" of protesters. Police would exercise maximum tolerance although the gatherings were illegal as they lacked permits, he said.

Several police were injured in the scuffles, Mr Mayor said.

APEC STATEMENT

Police have said there's no security threat to the Apec meeting. Several countries have heightened their alerts after the Islamic State attacks on Paris left at least 129 dead. Apec leaders plan to jointly condemn acts of terrorism and urge greater cooperation against militancy, according to a draft communique obtained by Bloomberg.

The Apec gathering this week coincided with news that Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf had beheaded a Malaysian engineer being held hostage in the southern Philippines.

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said he was "shocked and sickened" by the murder of Bernard Then and called on Philippine authorities to take action against the perpetrators.

A four-decade Muslim insurgency in the southern province of Mindanao has left as many as 200,000 people dead. Militants in the region, including the Abu Sayyaf group, often take hostages for ransom.

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