4 dead in Senegal as police clashed with protesters

Senegalese police clashed with protesters in several neighbourhoods in the capital Dakar, including in front of a courthouse where an opposition leader made his first appearance since his arrest on a rape charge.


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4 dead in Senegal as police clashed with protesters

4 dead in Senegal as police clashed with protesters
A protester throws a projectile at gendarmes near their barracks in the Colobane neighbourhood of Dakar on March 5, 2021, during clashes following the arrest of main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko

Senegalese police clashed with protesters in several neighbourhoods in the capital Dakar, including in front of a courthouse where an opposition leader made his first appearance since his arrest on a rape charge.

The Senegal government has vowed to use “all means necessary” to return an order after police fired tear gas in clashes with supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko as the interior minister said four people had died.

Friday clashes followed a court ruling that Sonko to be held in custody. And following two days of protests, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all sides to avoid any further escalation of the violence.

“The protests must remain peaceful, and the security and police forces must at all times operate… in line with international human rights standards,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

“The government regrets the loss of four lives” in events “that are rooted in banditry and insurrection,” Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome said on television on Friday, accusing Sonko of “issuing calls to violence.”

4 dead in Senegal as police clashed with protesters

In Dakar’s working-class district of Medina earlier, hundreds of young people fought running street battles with riot police and smoke rose from burning tires at makeshift barricades in the capital city.

Protesters chanted “Free Sonko” on the main Blaise Diagne avenue, the ground strewn with stones, grenade cartridges, and burning debris.

“The protests must remain peaceful, and the security and police forces must at all times operate… in line with international human rights standards,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

In Mbao, in the city’s outer suburbs, looters also ransacked a French chain Auchan supermarket, The chain says at least 14 stores have been attacked during this week’s unrest.

The arrest of Sonko, popular with young people and seen as a key challenger to President Macky Sall, has sparked the worst unrest in years in a West African state often heralded as a beacon of stability.

His supporters had called for further protests to coincide with his hearing before a judge on Friday on charges of disturbing order.

“Sonko has been returned to custody over the matter of disturbing public order,” attorney Etienne Ndione told reporters after the hearing.

Tensions were high in the city with hefty police deployments in place around the law courts, presidential palace, and National Assembly in the heart of the city.

Clashes broke out on Wednesday between Sonko’s supporters and police as he made his way to court for another case where he faced rape accusations – allegations that he denies.

Sonko was then arrested on charges of disturbing public order, a development that sparked angry protests in the capital and other cities.

The custody order issued on Friday, which relates specifically to the public order case, expires on Sunday.

He was not charged on Friday in the rape case and returns to court on Monday for questioning over those accusations, his lawyers said.

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Wasiu Kehinde

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