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Senegal: Presidency accuses opposition of 'destabilizing the country' as death toll hits 15

Military tank on the streets of Dakar   -  
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JOHN WESSELS/AFP or licensors


The Senegalese presidential coalition has accused the opposition of "destabilizing the country" after riots that have left 15 people dead since Thursday over the sentencing of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison.

"We're going to defend our country against these people," says Mame Mbaye Niang, Senegal's Minister of Tourism and a member of the presidential coalition. 

"Today, more than ever, the people of Senegal are on their feet. I'm talking about the real Senegalese. I'm not talking about those Senegalese who wanted to fan the flames, destabilize the country, flee the country and disappear into thin air, because today they're living in torpor. These are irresponsible people. They called for demonstrations. They called for public buildings to be burned. They called for the collapse of the state" Mbaye Niang stressed on Saturday.

Six more people have died in clashes between police and opposition supporters taking the toll to 15, the government said Saturday as tensions remained high.

The violence left nine dead on Thursday, after popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in jail for "corrupting" a young woman after being acquitted on rape charges.

Government spokesperson Maham Ka told AFP that on Friday evening another four deaths were recorded in the capital Dakar and its suburbs as well as two in Ziguinchor.

Public and private property, banks and shops, were ransacked as groups of protesting youngsters confronted security forces. Burned-out cars, tyres and debris-strewn streets bore testimony to another night of violence.

The interior ministry reported no further violence by early Saturday afternoon, with the army still deployed to back up large numbers of police.

Sonko, who was tried in absentia having alleged the government cooked up the charges to stop him running for president again next year, has yet to be taken into custody to serve his jail term, which is likely to cause further tensions

He is presumed to remain in his Dakar home, where he has been blocked in by security forces since the weekend and alleges he is being "illegally held".

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