Dakar, Mar 5 (efe-epa).- Four people have been killed in violent protests in Senegal that continued for the third day on Friday amid widespread outrage at the arrest of an opposition leader accused of rape.
Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome, in a televised statement, said that “the government regrets the loss of four human lives” in the unrest.
The minister described the protests as “acts of a terrorist nature” after angry mobs threw stones at police who fired tear gas canisters to disperse the demonstrators.
He said the demonstrations and gathering of crowds violated Covid-19 health protocols, and the government had imposed a curfew in the regions of Dakar and Thiès.
The minister urged people to calm down and vowed to use “all means necessary” to ensure public order is restored and maintained.
The clashes broke out after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was taken into custody on Wednesday for disturbing public order.
Sonko’s supporters surrounded his convoy and started protesting when he was on his way to court in response to a summon on charges of raping and allegedly threatening to kill a massage parlor employee.
He has admitted to being a regular customer of the salon but has denied the accusations.
Sonko alleged it was part of a conspiracy by President Macky Sall to force his exit from politics.
In the last three days of protests, looters have ransacked several supermarkets and gas stations of French companies Auchan and Total.
A radio and newspaper office and some public buildings were also attacked.
There were reports of restricted internet access as the sending of multimedia files through social networks such as WhatsApp or YouTube was restricted.
Two TV networks also went off the air after they showed images of the protests.
In a statement on Thursday, the government warned that it would not allow “biased coverage of the events by some media that can fuel hatred and violence.”
The United Nations special representative in West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, on Friday regretted the acts of violence and called for “moderation and calm.”
Known for his “anti-establishment” speeches, criticizing poor governance, corruption, and French neo-colonialism, Sonko came third in the 2019 presidential elections, in which the incumbent president returned to power for the second and final tenure.
Sonko is now the main opposition leader after Idrissa Seck, the runner-up in the presidential polls, joined the ruling party last year.
Sall came to power in 2012 after beating Abdoulaye Wade, who was aspiring an unauthorized third term.
The outrage over his candidacy led to demonstrations in which at least eight people died, triggering concerns about the destabilization of the West African country, known for its political stability and democratic tradition. EFE-EPA