The disturbances began in Faraba Banta, 50 km south of the capital Banjul on Monday as angry residents of the town took to the streets protesting the ‘unwanted presence’ of the Julakay mining company which has been mining sand in the area since last year, despite environmental concerns by environmentalists.
Anonymous government sources say two people died on the spot after being shot by a detachment of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) deployed to deal with the demonstrators, apparently using live ammunition.
A third protester died later in hospital, a local media outlet reported via Facebook.
The protesters were apparently unarmed.
Ten PIU operatives are reportedly injured in the standoff.
One journalist identified as Pa Modou Bojang has been arrested in connection to the protest.
The protest comes four days after a select committee of the Gambian National Assembly met with officials of the Energy ministry over the sand mining issue in Faraba Banta and provisionally instructed Julakey to temporarily halt operation and withdraw the paramilitary unit from the scene until the problem is resolved.
The committee had also instructed a temporary closure of the Nessim fish company in the fishing village of Sanyang until a dispute with residents is resolved.
The instructions were supposed to come into effect last Friday but did not due to a public holiday marking the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan.
Consequently, the companies in question did not receive letters to this effect before Monday.