Sierra Leone-Police-Security

Sierra Leone: Criminal gangs blamed for political violence

APA-Freetown (Sierra Leone)

The Sierra Leone Police (SLP) have said that the fatal violence that marred the nomination process of the presidential candidate of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) was the work of criminal gangs operating in cliques.

Superintendent Ibrahim Samura, Head of Police Media Relations at the SLP, said on Monday that 56 persons had been detained after police raids, following the clashes in the centre of Freetown last Friday.

“What happened is as a result of the fact that Freetown has become infested with criminal gangs. They always take advantage of crowd pulling events to embark on criminal activities,” he said.

According to the police account, one person was killed and several others injured when irate youths went on the rampage, attacking people in the street of the capital city and stealing from shops and other businesses.

The incident occurred during the rallies of the APC whose turn it was to nominate its presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Most of the clashes occurred at a place called Campbell Street. Samura said preliminary investigation by the police has also revealed that Campbell Street is home to the head of a notorious gang.

He also revealed that deadly weapons, including cutlasses, pickaxes, shovels and chisels were discovered at the home of the suspected gang leader whose identity is yet to be revealed.  Samura said the gangs used these weapons because they do not have guns.

Security is increasingly a major concern ahead of the March 7 general elections. Opposition political parties have therefore demanded speedy investigation into the latest incident which some critics have blamed on the conduct of supporters of the APC.

Some APC supporters, in turn, also blamed opposition supporters of infiltrating their ranks to cause trouble.  But the police say it is too early to point accusing finger.

According to Samura, the end of the investigation should definitely determine whether there is any political motivation in the incident and that the police do not politicize crime.

The police spokesman said they observed that the gangs target crowd pulling events and infiltrate the ranks of the political parties, especially the two main parties – APC and SLPP - which have the largest crowds.


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