Muslims protest violently in Dakar

2012-10-22 18:47

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Dakar - Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in Senegal's capital on Monday, after hundreds of supporters of an influential religious leader smashed cars and shop windows in street riots.

Supporters of Muslim leader Cheikh Bethio Thioune smashed the windscreens of more than 50 cars and hurled rocks through the windows of banks and restaurants on Monday morning as they demanded his release from prison.

Thioune is being held after he was found guilty of complicity in the murder of two of his supporters earlier this year.

"The president needs to pass an order to release [Thioune] before next week," said a supporter of the leader, also named Cheikh. "If he doesn't, there will be more violence," he said.

In the central Independence Square, which saw heavy protests during the run-up to a presidential vote in February, office and bank employees stood around, looking at rows of 4x4 vehicles with smashed windows.

On the edge of Dakar's seaside Corniche road, security forces chased protesters down a cliffside, firing rubber bullets as they ran. Across the street, police kicked two young women as they attempted to drag them into a police car.

"Dakar is heating up," Pierre-Marie Gorgas, a bank executive, told dpa. "It didn't use to be like this, but at the moment there are regular incidents of violence," he said referring to riots that broke out during an African Nations Cup qualifying match between Senegal and Ivory Coast earlier this month.

Senegal fans then threw missiles, stones, bottles and firecrackers on to the pitch, frustrated with their team's poor performance. The match was halted and Senegal was ultimately disqualified from the cup.

Thioune was transferred to Dakar's municipal prison last week, shortly after demonstrations in the nearby town of Thies against his incarceration. There, supporters burned cars and smashed windscreens.

The influential leader has a large band of young supporters, many of whom have received military-style training and supported outgoing President Abdoulaye Wade in the presidential vote in February.

- SAPA
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