Dozens died in anti-government protests in Sierra Leone, police and other sources said on Thursday, sharply raising the death toll from the previous day’s clashes as shocked citizens stayed mostly behind closed doors in the capital Freetown.
Six police officers and at least 21 civilians were killed, the sources said, as hundreds took to the streets in frustration at economic hardship and a perceived failure by the government to cushion the impact of rising prices.
One video verified by Reuters from Freetown showed a police officer firing a gun into a crowd.
Sulaiman Turay, a 19-year-old living in east Freetown, marched briefly before police started firing teargas and said he later he saw demonstrators getting shot at from his porch.
President Julius Maada Bio said the circumstances surrounding Wednesday’s events would be “fully investigated”.
Other verified images from Freetown showed clouds of smoke and teargas as large crowds threw rocks and burned tyres and armed officers patrolled the streets.
The protests were concentrated in the opposition’s northern heartland and the capital.
Wednesday’s death toll included two police officers killed in Freetown, three in the northern town of Kamakwie and one in the northern city of Makeni, police inspector general William Fayia Sellu told Reuters.
At least 13 civilians were shot dead in Freetown, said staff at the city’s main mortuary. Hospital sources said that four civilians were killed in Kamakwie and another four in Makeni.
An eerie calm had returned to Freetown on Thursday, residents said, as stores were closed and people stayed in out of fear of unrest.
The internet was cut for two hours on Wednesday and again overnight, according to internet observatory NetBlocks.
Police said a curfew would remain in effect from 7pm to 7am local time from Thursday after the government imposed a 3 p.m. curfew on Wednesday in a bid to stem the violence.