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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
Gambia on maximum alert

The government of Gambia says security forces are on maximum alert following a day of violent student protests in and around the capital, Banjul, in which at least six people were killed.

A statement said the situation was calm and the authorities were in complete control.

The protests began as a march against alleged police mistreatment of students but suddenly degenerated into violent clashes in the capital, Banjul, between the security forces and young people.

Red Cross officials in Gambia said volunteer worker, Umar Barrow, was shot by armed police who had entered the headquarters of the charity.

The officials said Mr Barrow was wearing Red Cross insignia when he was shot and that they had protested to the authorities about the behaviour of the security forces.

The circumstances surrounding the other deaths are less clear, but medical personnel said many people have bullet wounds. At least one police officer was badly injured.

Rape protest

The student demonstrations began with protests about the alleged rape of a woman student and the alleged torture of a young man by the security forces.

Students announced plans for the demonstration at the weekend, claiming that the Gambian Government had not responded adequately to the events.

According to witness reports, students set tyres alight, ransacked government offices and burned vehicles. A police station, post office and buildings belonging to state television and the independent electoral commission were badly damaged.

The authorities have now ordered all schools and colleges to close, and said that armed soldiers will ensure order on the streets.

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