3 killed in Senegal protests, opposition says

Protesters, police clash in Senegal
Protesters, police clash in Senegal

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Protesters, police clash in Senegal 01:59

Story highlights

  • A presidential spokesman blames the opposition for "urban guerrilla warfare"
  • An opposition leader says police are responsible for deaths, escalating violence
  • Clashes erupt near a mosque where fighting also broke out last week
  • Protests have surged in Senegal over the incumbent president's reelection bid
At least three people were killed during weekend demonstrations in Senegal a week before the country's presidential elections, an opposition leader said Monday.
Presidential spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye blamed opposition candidates and their supporters for fueling "urban guerrilla warfare" leading up to the February 26 vote.
But Amath Dansokho, head of the opposition June 23 Movement, blamed police for the escalating violence. Police were responsible for the deaths of three people Sunday in demonstrations in Dakar and Rufisque, he said.
The presidential spokesman denied that the police or military were involved in the deaths.
Protests have surged in the West African nation since January 27, when the country's highest court cleared President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, to run for a third term.
Opposition demonstrators argue that the court was compromised and the constitution limits presidents to two terms -- an assertion Ndiaye denied Monday.
"Senegal, like any other democratic country, has its institutions. The constitutional council is the country's referee, and it has made its decision," the presidential spokesman said. "The opposition had their chance to prove their claims, but they didn't."
Now, three opposition candidates for the presidency campaigning in Dakar are "forcing young people to the streets to protest and burn tires," he said.
Dansokho, the opposition leader, said protesters would continue pressuring the government with daily protests across the nation, using "all possible means to stop this constitutional coup."
Demonstrators threw rocks and police threw tear gas canisters near a mosque in downtown Dakar Sunday, 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 Wade's controversial reelection bid.
Protests intensified after police threw tear gas Friday into the El Hadj Malick Sy mosque, where several demonstrators had taken refuge.
Whoever tossed the tear gas canisters at the mosque will be punished, Ndiaye said Sunday, according to the state-run Senegalese Press Agency. Authorities were investigating to determine who was responsible, he said.
Ndiaye told CNN that authorities would ensure that Sunday's election would go on peacefully, "despite the political turbulence."