Mauritanian police on Monday crushed a protest by hundreds of youths demanding a boycott of upcoming elections, wounding several. An AFP reporter saw police beat the activists and spray them with tear gas as they waved placards and chanted slogans outside the offices of the election commission in the capital Nouakchott, calling for a boycott of Saturday’s parliamentary and local elections. “The police violently attacked the demonstrators despite the peaceful nature of their movement, using tear gas and batons,” said Idoumou Ould Mohamed Lemine, spokesman for the Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) that organised the protest.
“Many people, mostly women, were wounded and transported to hospitals in Nouakchott,” he added, condemning “these acts of violence which are contrary to democracy and the free expression that the government prides itself on”.
The injuries appeared to be minor, according to the AFP journalist at the scene.
Mauritania, a mainly Muslim republic and a former French colony, is seen by Western leaders as strategically important in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked groups within its own borders, in neighbouring Mali and across Africa’s Sahel region.