On the fifth day of violent protests ahead of Senegalese capital Dakar's controversial presidential poll, two young men have already lost their lives, indicating a bad turn of events and intensifying demonstrations in an otherwise peaceful city.
Protesters demanded on Sunday that Senegal's 85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade step down, and were on the streets of the heart of the capital, throwing stones at police and erecting barricades, reported the Freedom Newspaper.
President Abdoulaye Wade, who is insisting on running again, has already got calls from France and the U.S. to step down and hand over power to the younger generation. The unrest in the city has only deepened with the events having taken a dangerous turn towards a religious dimension.
Senegal is a secular nation with 90 percent Muslim population. The recent unrest saw hundreds of Muslims gathering outside a mosque discussing a Friday incident in which police used grenade launchers to unleash tear gas. Grenade launchers at one point hit the wall of the mosque and the gas engulfed the worshippers praying inside and outside the shrine. The incident, it seems, deeply offended the largest Muslim brotherhood of Senegal, which owns the mosque.
However, TV footage of Friday's incident showed that the police had not intentionally shot inside the mosque. Rather, it was only aimed at a crowd that gathered outside.
The report further said that everytime the youths charged the police, they screamed, Allah Akbar and There is no God but Allah.
I'm worried - yes. What I'm seeing here could really degenerate into another kind of situation, a religious one. We must absolutely avoid violence. The Freedom Newspaper quoted Moustapha Faye, a young member of the Mouride Muslim brotherhood as saying.
Later on Sunday, Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom apologized to the population, calling Friday's attack on the mosque a police blunder. He asked for forgiveness from the Tidiane community and all Muslims and called on the politicians not to exploit this incident for politics.
According to the Senegalese Press Agency, the state-owned news service, six people have been killed so far in the three-week-long protest, which only seems to get worse even as there's only one week to go for the elections scheduled for next Sunday.
Wade has been in power for 12 years, in spite of the fact that in 2001 revision, the constitution imposed a two-term limit. He disappointed many when he argued that the new constitution was not retroactive and so should not apply to him, said the report.
It all started in January when the country's highest court ruled that Wade was eligible to run for a third term, and all hell broke loose. The nation has been seeing protests ever since, but Wade has not been affected by the opposition. On Sunday, protestors took to the streets for several hours and the city of Dakar saw another day of violent protests.