Senegal apology amid protests against Abdoulaye Wade

A boy stands in front of a burning barricade set up by anti-government protestors during clashes with police in Senegal"s capital Dakar, February 19, 2012.Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Senegal has been rocked by five straight days of violent protests

Senegal's government has apologised for a "police blunder" after tear gas was thrown into a mosque amid protests against President Abdoulaye Wade's re-election bid.

One person reportedly died on Sunday after a demonstration to condemn Friday's tear-gas incident in Dakar.

Six people have now been killed in anti-Wade protests this year, local media say.

Despite the protests, Mr Wade, 85, is standing in Sunday's election.

He is seeking a third term after first winning elections in 2000.

Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom apologised after a tear gas canister went off inside a mosque where people were praying on Friday.

"I would like to present, in my personal name and on behalf of the highest authorities of national police, our most sincere apologies to the caliph" of the Tidiane brotherhood (Senegal's largest) and his followers, he told the Senegalese Press Agency (APS).

He also urged politicians not to hold protests near mosques in the mainly Muslim nation.

Sunday's protest outside the mosque turned violent with hundreds of demonstrators setting up burning barricades and throwing stones at the police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, according to the AFP news agency.

Media caption,
BBC Afrique's Mamadou Moussa Ba explains the background behind the upcoming elections in Senegal

The protests began on a main road in central Dakar but later spread around the capital.

One young man was killed in Rufisque, just outside Dakar, while a tailor died of his injuries in the central town of Kaolack on Saturday, APS reports.

Senegal has now seen five consecutive day of clashes.

The country is often held up as one of Africa's model democracies - it remains the only West African country where the army has never seized power.

But protests broke out in January after the country's highest court ruled that Mr Wade could seek a third term and banned singer Youssou Ndour from standing.

The constitution limits heads of state to two terms in office but the judges ruled that Mr Wade's first term did not count as this was before the limit was introduced.

Once a veteran opposition leader himself, Mr Wade, 85, was first elected in 2000 - ending 40 years of rule by the Socialist Party.

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