- Clashes erupt near a mosque where fighting also broke out last week
- At least three protesters are injured in the violence
- One protester throwing rocks accuses the president of desecrating the mosque
- A presidential spokesman says whoever threw tear gas at the mosque will be punished
Clashes erupted between police and protesters in Senegal Sunday, a week before the country's presidential elections.
Demonstrators threw rocks and police threw tear gas canisters near a mosque in downtown Dakar, where fighting also broke out during protests Friday. At least three protesters were injured in the fighting.
The clashes surrounding the mosque have added a religious element to the tense political climate surrounding President Abdoulaye Wade's controversial reelection bid.
At least five people have died in protests in Senegal since January 27, when the country's highest court cleared Wade, 85, to run for a third term, government officials have said. The opposition says that the court was compromised and the constitution limits presidents to two terms. Wade has been in office since 2000.
Protests intensified after police threw tear gas Friday into the El Hadj Malick Sy mosque, where several demonstrators had taken refuge.
Anger over that incident fueled tensions during Sunday's demonstrations, which began while worshipers at the mosque welcomed back a religious leader returning from Morocco.
"We want President Abdoulaye Wade to leave because he desecrated our mosque," said Abouly Gueye, 38, who was throwing rocks at police 100 yards from the mosque Sunday.
Whoever tossed the tear gas canisters at the mosque will be punished, a presidential spokesman said Sunday, according to the state-run Senegalese Press Agency. Authorities were investigating to determine who was responsible, spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye said, the agency reported.
But police officer's continued role in clashes in the area Sunday angered some who had come in peace to listen to the returning religious leader.
"It will mobilize the religious community because it is an irresponsible act," said Ahamed Sow, a 56-year-old Arabic teacher. "We are not politicians, but we will defend our leader and our brotherhood."
Religious leaders in the Muslim-majority nation have largely stayed above the political fray during this election season. During his address Sunday, the mosque's imam said the faithful should refrain from violence.