Unrest in Freetown, Sierra Leone. [Photo: CNN News]
Eight police officers were killed during violent anti-government protests in Sierra Leone on Wednesday, the country’s youth minister told CNN Thursday, while hospital sources told Reuters that at least 21 civilians were killed in different locations in the country.
The officers, six men and two women were “brutalized” and killed in the area where the protests were held on Wednesday, youth minister Mohamed Orman Bangura said.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the capital Freetown on Wednesday, protesting inflation and the rising cost of living in the West African country.
The protests grew violent at times. Graphic images and videos of battered and seriously injured protesters and some members of security forces could be seen on social media. Security forces were also seen firing guns at citizens.
Bangura said he could not immediately confirm the number of civilians killed or injured in the violent demonstrations.
“We are yet to know how many people were injured, but I can confirm that eight police officers were killed.”
According to Reuters, at least 21 civilians were killed at different locations in the country. It reported that 13 people were shot dead in Freetown, and another eight were killed in Kamakwie and Makeni towns, citing hospital sources.
Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh imposed a curfew Wednesday to quell the protests.
Youth minister Bangura described the protests as an “act of terrorism.”
“Those are not protesters. There’s a difference between protest and riot and acts of terrorism. Protesting is different from acting as a terrorist…going against the state, killing young police officers,” he said.
“The police have made some arrests,” the minister told CNN while accusing the country’s opposition of financing the protests.
“This was well planned, calculated and financed by members of the opposition All People’s Congress. Members of the opposition paid young people to come to the street to take over governance,” Bangura, a member of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party said.
“If the protest is as a result of the cost of living, why is it not happening in all the strongholds of the current government? Why is it in Makeni that happens to be the headquarters town of the opposition? Why is it not a nationwide strike? Out of 16 districts, why is it only in three districts that they (the opposition) think is their stronghold?” he asked.