Violent protests in Guinea after imam's arrest

2015-02-09 20:02
An empty Ebola virus decontamination zone at a treatment clinic, as the Ebola virus shows signs of diminishing. (Michael Duff, AP)

An empty Ebola virus decontamination zone at a treatment clinic, as the Ebola virus shows signs of diminishing. (Michael Duff, AP)

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Conakry - Around a dozen Guineans were wounded on Monday in clashes with police after the arrest of an imam who led funeral prayers for a suspected victim of Ebola.

Demonstrators put up barricades, burned tyres and overturned rubbish bins in the capital Conakry, before using sticks and stones to attack officers who responded with tear gas and baton charges.

"They came for the third imam of our mosque because yesterday he led the funeral prayers in the mosque here for a relative who died a natural death," a protester told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"For the Guinean authorities no one can now die a natural death. All those who die have inevitably died of Ebola," he said.

A policeman told AFP that the officers wanted simply to question the imam on the cause of death and the conditions at the burial.

"It is especially important to know that he didn't have Ebola to ensure the safety of his family and neighbours, including potential contacts," he said.

The demonstrators broke the windshield of at least a dozen private vehicles and burned two buses, one belonging to a hotel and another to a utility company.

Burial rites involving contact with bodies are among the main factors in the spread of Ebola, according to the World Health Organization, which said last week that 11 people had been infected at a funeral in January in eastern Guinea.

President Alpha Conde has recently made several statements justifying the use of force to stop traditional burials.

Guinea and its neighbours Sierra Leone and Liberia have registered more than 9 000 deaths since the epidemic flared up in December 2013.

Mobs have sporadically attacked health workers in all three countries after being taken in by a variety of conspiracy theories, often characterising the outbreak as a plot by the West to murder Africans and harvest their organs.

Guinea has seen the worst of the bloodshed and the situation is particularly tense in the densely-forested southern region, where the epidemic began.

Guinea has put 58 people on trial over an attack on Ebola outreach workers by a mob wielding machetes, according to judicial sources.

The defendants are accused of wounding several government workers and staff from the global medical aid agency Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) with the knives as well as assaulting them with sticks and stones.

The group, who have been in the dock since Monday last week in the western town of Forecariah, were arrested after the attack in early January on the nearby island of Kaback.

In September last year, eight members of an outreach team were killed by protesters denying the existence of Ebola and denouncing a "white conspiracy" in the southeastern town of Womey.

Read more on:    msf  |  guinea  |  west africa  |  ebola

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