Protests at Gambia killings – BBC - Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 19:50 GMT

Protests have been taking place in several parts of the Gambia against the deaths of 12 people on Monday during clashes between police and students.

"It has so far been established that 12 people died and 28 were admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital, out of which 15 are students and 13 non-students," a statement from President Yahya Jammeh's office said.

The government statement also blamed some non-students for the violence.

"There is no doubt that the crisis was incited by the Gambia Students Union (Gamsu) and aggravated by some bad elements and bandits who took advantage of the situation, disguising themselves as students and encouraging the crowd of so-called demonstrators to the damage," the statement said.

Uneasy calm

In the capital Banjul on Tuesday, there was an uneasy calm as soldiers in pick-up vehicles patrolled the streets to maintain order.

Many worried and grieving parents and relatives gathered around the city's mortuary for news about their missing or dead children.

One man who lost a son was a Sierra Leonean refugee, James Carroll. "We managed to avoid all the bullets during the fighting in Sierra Leone only for my son to be killed by a bullet here in the Gambia," he lamented.

In the provinces, away from Banjul and nearby Serekunda, student violence continued as many angry youths reportedly went on the rampage, burning government vehicles and buildings in anger at Monday's killings.

Violent protests

The deaths occurred as students went on a demonstration to protest against last month's alleged torture and murder of one of their colleagues by fire fighters.

The peaceful march in the capital Banjul then degenerated into violence.

Some accounts allege that the students ransacked private property, vandalised vehicles and government buildings and set fire to police buildings.

Police are believed to have fired live ammunition on the demonstrators.

Those killed included a Red Cross volunteer, Omar Barrow, who was shot as protesters sought refuge in the Red Cross compound.

Schools closed down

A large number of arrests have been made and the government has announced the indefinite closure of all schools and colleges.

Those arrested included about 30 high school students who are alleged to have burnt down an office of the national telephone company, Gamtel in the east of the country.

Parents have been told to keep their students at home until further notice, and the Gambia's security forces were put on maximum alert.

The unrest is taking place in the absence of the President Jammeh, who is currently in Cuba for the G77 summit.