Africa

Violent protests in Ebola-hit Guinea

Protesters have used sticks and stones to attack police in Guinea after a imam was arrested for leading a funeral for an Ebola victim.

About a dozen Guineans have been wounded in clashes with police after the arrest of an imam who led funeral prayers for a suspected victim of Ebola.

Demonstrators put up barricades, burned tyres and overturned rubbish bins in the capital Conakry on Monday, before using sticks and stones to attack officers who responded with tear gas and baton charges.

"They came for the third imam of our mosque because yesterday he led the funeral prayers in the mosque here for a relative who died a natural death," a protester told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"For the Guinean authorities no one can now die a natural death. All those who die have inevitably died of Ebola," he said.

A policeman told AFP that the officers wanted simply to question the imam on the cause of death and the conditions at the burial.

"It is especially important to know that he didn't have Ebola to ensure the safety of his family and neighbours, including potential contacts," he said.

The demonstrators broke the windshield of at least a dozen private vehicles and burned two buses, one belonging to a hotel and another to a utility company.

Burial rites involving contact with bodies are among the main factors in the spread of Ebola, according to the World Health Organization, which said last week that 11 people had been infected at a funeral in January in eastern Guinea.

President Alpha Conde has recently made several statements justifying the use of force to stop traditional burials.

Guinea and its neighbours Sierra Leone and Liberia have registered more than 9000 deaths since the epidemic flared up in December 2013.

Mobs have sporadically attacked health workers in all three countries after being taken in by a variety of conspiracy theories, often characterising the outbreak as a plot by the West to murder Africans and harvest their organs.

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