One man died and 17 other people were injured in northern Togo in clashes between police and a crowd holding a traditional ceremony in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, the government said.
The incident occurred when residents of Niamtougou and Koka were taking part in a traditional “Kondona” celebration — an initiation ceremony for young men — on Saturday, though such gatherings have been banned because of the pandemic.
“After the crowd was dispersed, some of them came back and put up barricades in order to continue the celebrations,” security minister Yark Damehame said in a statement on Sunday, adding that 3,000 people were present.
“A tear gas bomb fatally struck an old man who was immediately evacuated to an infirmary where he later died,” the minister said.
Damehame said 13 policemen enforcing anti-virus regulations were among the wounded after “they were attacked by an angry mob”.
Two vehicles and a house were burnt down in the clashes, he added.
Witnesses told AFP by phone that the man who died was killed by bullets — a claim that could not be immediately verified.
“The police was really violent. In addition to the tear gas, they fired actual bullets,” said a resident, who asked to remain anonymous.
Most gatherings are banned by the Togolese government that extended a state of health emergency on September 16. The latest official figures indicate 1,743 infections and 46 coronavirus deaths.