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Senegalese Protesters Clash With Police


Hundreds of demonstrators in the restive Casamance region of southern Senegal filled the streets Saturday protesting what they are calling police brutality. Angry mobs in Kolda burned tires and razed houses to the ground in reaction to the death of a man in police custody. Kari Barber has more from VOA's bureau in Dakar.

Police in Kolda chased protesters through the streets as youth burned buildings and marched on police headquarters. Protesters say on Friday police tortured to death a man they were interrogating in a burglary case.

Local journalist Alpha Jallow says the unrest began in the morning and grew throughout the day Saturday.

"Just a few minutes ago from where I am speaking to you, the angry crowd stormed the local radio station here," he said. "Right now they are marching across the police station and the police are using batons to chase them, so there are running battles now between the police and the angry crowd."

Jallow says the family of the deceased man is angry at the police and holds them accountable for the death.

He says protesters claim there have been many cases of police brutality in Kolda.

"They say this is police brutality here in Kolda and this is not the first time the police have tortured detainees during interrogations, so they are very angry with the security forces here," he added.

Jallow says two years ago he witnessed a similar demonstration in Casamance in which the army was accused of torturing to death people it suspected of belonging to a rebel movement.

Rebels in the region have been fighting for autonomy for decades, and tensions have grown in recent months with renewed violence earlier this year.

Protest leader Basirou Kante says demonstrations will continue until the police are held accountable.

Kante says he is calling on residents of the region to protest any case of police brutality and to not ignore what has happened.

Senegalese army spokesman Colonel Antione Wardini says the man's death is an issue between the people and the police, but the army may be called on to restore calm.

"If it is getting out of hand, they may ask them to intervene to just restore order to keep the guys apart," he said. "They, the army, have not intervened yet, but they may."

While authorities have confirmed the arrested man died in police custody, they have not released the exact cause of death.