Curfew declared in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown amid violent anti-government protests

The protests turned violent at times. Graphic images and videos of protesters being beaten and seriously injured and some members of the security forces can be seen on social media. Security forces were seen firing on civilians.

CNN has verified the videos were filmed in Sierra Leone at different times on Wednesday.

Vice President Mohammad Juldeh Jalloh announced a nationwide curfew from 3 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) on Wednesday while President Julius Mada Bayou is out of the country.

CNN has not yet been able to verify the number of people injured or killed in the protests. During a televised address announcing the curfew, Jalloh referred to protesters and casualties without elaborating.

“These unscrupulous individuals have launched violent and unauthorized protests that have resulted in the loss of lives of innocent Sierra Leoneans, including security personnel,” the Vice President said.

In a tweet, US Embassy in Freetown All sides called for calm and restraint.

‘Not the right way to go about it’

Maurice Marah, an entrepreneur in Freetown, told CNN that the protests had been going on for days.

“The budding groups have been mobilizing since August 8, but they have increased and today it got worse. More people joined in large numbers and clashed with the police and there was violence on both sides. Some people lost their lives but not me. Know the numbers,” Marah said. told CNN in a phone call from Freetown.

“The economic situation in the country is really bad, the government says it is because of Ukraine and the coronavirus crisis but till date youth unemployment is very high. There are many disaffected youth in the country,” he added. “Recently there has been a huge increase in fuel prices, products and commodities. The president says he doesn’t have quick fixes but, as an entrepreneur, things were tough before Ukraine and the coronavirus crisis.”

“Not everyone in the country supports this protest. No matter how difficult things are. This is not the right way to go about it,” Marah added.

One witness, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the government, said: “The protests started this morning but have continued since last week.”

“People are protesting about inflation, hyperinflation and cost of living. The police are very aggressive in dealing with the problem and people’s backs are against the wall,” he added.

Earlier, internet monitor Netblox had reported that there was a nationwide disruption of internet service by several providers in the country.

“CONFIRMATION: Real-time network data shows #SierraLeone near total internet shutdown amid anti-government protests in #Freetown; metrics show national connectivity at 5% of normal,” NetBlocks said in a tweet.

CNN’s Arnaud Siad also contributed to this report.

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