UPDATE 1-Senegal police clash with rioters as vote looms

Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:30pm GMT

* Tension soars ahead of Feb. 26 election

* Opposition calls on president to step down

* Senegal a linchpin of stability in turbulent West Africa (Adds death reported, details, background)

By Diadie Ba

DAKAR, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Senegal security forces clashed with protesters in the capital and surrounding suburbs on Sunday in the fifth straight day of demonstrations against President Abdoulaye Wade's candidacy in a Feb. 26 election.

Youths set fire to tyres, smashed car windows and barricaded roads near the presidential mansion in Dakar and several protesters were injured as police defending it fired back with teargas, rubber bullets and rocks, a Reuters witness said.

One protester was killed when a rubber bullet hit him in the head in the town of Rufiske, 25 km (15 miles) from Dakar, according to local media, bringing to at least six the number of dead in pre-electoral violence since last month.

The clashes come amid mounting pressure on Wade from opposition rivals and international partners to withdraw his bid for a third term in office, and have raised fears of growing instability in West Africa's most peaceful country.

Protesters said they took to the streets on Sunday to retaliate after security forces fired a teargas grenade into a mosque during a demonstration on Friday.   Continued...

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