At least 16 people in Ivory Coast have been killed in ethnic clashes ahead of the presidential polls slated for Oct. 31, government officials said on Sunday.

In a statement, the government said that 67 people have also been injured in the clashes that began in the southern town of Dabou earlier this week.

The statement said that 52 people were also detained.

Clashes are reported to have taken place between members of the Malinke ethnic group — of which the incumbent president belongs, and Adjoukourou ethnic group.

The opposition claims that Alassane Ouattara’s candidacy for a third term in office violates the country’s constitution. 

However, Ouattara argues that his first term should not be counted, as constitutional amendments that limit an elected president to two terms in office were introduced during his second term.

A total of 44 candidates had filed nominations to contest the presidential elections. But the nominations of most of them were rejected as they failed to amass signatures from at least 1% of the electorate, which has been made mandatory in the country’s new election law.

Four candidates, including Ouattara, will run in the presidential elections.

Experts warn that the violent situation may turn out of control in the former French colony, known for its beach resorts and rainforests.

They recalled that a similar controversial election in 2010 had resulted in the deaths of 3,000 people. Backed by France, Ouattara was declared the winner in the polls against Laurent Gbagbo, who had also claimed victory.

Since late 2011, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been trying Gbagbo for his alleged role in the violent incidents.

Writing by Ahmet Gencturk