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Teen killed as violence hits Sierra Leone by-election

Sierra Leone, which was battered by civil war between 1991-2002, is sharply divided along regional lines that overlap with ethnicity.

Flag of Sierra Leone. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

FREETOWN – Violent clashes erupted during a local by-election in Sierra Leone leaving a teenager dead and prompting the cancellation of the ballot, police and election officials said Sunday.

The incident occurred on Saturday at a polling station in a school in the northern Kambia district, where a ballot box was destroyed, sparking an altercation between supporters of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and the opposition All Peoples Congress.

But the confrontation quickly turned violent with a teenager killed in the clashes, police told AFP.

"The intensity of the clashes resulted in the death of a boy," a police source said.

Polling station staff immediately suspended the ballot but were prevented from leaving for three hours until they were rescued by the army with help from police, a commission statement said.

It was not clear what sparked the confrontation, but an APC spokesman expressed anger over the cancellation of the ballot.

Sierra Leone, which was battered by civil war between 1991-2002, is sharply divided along regional lines that overlap with ethnicity.

The APC broadly relies on the Temne and Limba people in its northern strongholds, while the SLPP is more popular in the south with the Mende ethnic group.

One of the world’s poorest nations despite huge mineral and diamond deposits, Sierra Leone is recovering gradually from war and disease. Its economy remains fragile, with corruption widespread in the former British colony.

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