NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - One man was killed on Tuesday when Mauritanian police fired live rounds and tear gas grenades at protesters who were opposing a government census effort they say discriminates against blacks, sources said.
The violence underscores deep-rooted tensions between the West African nation’s black and Arab populations.
“We regret that six from our group were wounded and a seventh protester, Lamine Mamgane, died from chest wounds,” said Adama Ndiaye, a spokesman for the protest movement ‘Don’t Touch My Nationality’, told Reuters by telephone.
Another member of the group confirmed the death, and two officials in the southern town of Maghama near Senegal’s border where the incident took place also confirmed the information on condition of anonymity.
Tuesday’s was the latest of several violent demonstrations in recent days protesting Mauritania’s new census effort, which the protesters say makes it more difficult for blacks to prove their Mauritanian nationality than for Arabs.
Government and police officials have declined comment on the protests.
Mauritania, a poor mostly desert nation struggling with a growing presence of al Qaeda-linked militants, has a long history of tension between its black and Arab populations.
Rights groups say hundreds of black Mauritanians were killed or went missing during inter-ethnic clashes between 1989 and 1991, and the government earlier this year said it would seek to identify the graves of the dead in a move to encourage reconciliation.