Sierra Leone: A day after anti-government protests, at least two police officers and a civilian were killed in the city's main morgue on Wednesday, according to staff.
When demonstrators pelted stones and set tires on fire out of desperation over the deteriorating economic situation and other issues, Sierra Leone's government had previously acknowledged that there had been deaths, but did not specify how many.
A nationwide curfew has been imposed from 3 pm local time in the West African country, which is facing rising inflation and fuel shortage.
According to President Julius Mada Bio on Twitter, "As a government it is our duty to protect every Sierra Leonean. Today's unfortunate events will be thoroughly investigated."
A Reuters reporter saw three bodies in the morgue as well as another civilian body on a street in East Freetown.
A spokesperson and the police chief could not be reached for comment.
Large protesting crowds and piles of fire tires were seen in parts of the capital Freetown, in videos posted to social media and verified by Reuters. In another video, a group of youths were seen throwing stones at a road covered in white smoke.
"People are troubled by the country's deteriorating justice system, daily price hikes and economic hardship," said student Daniel Alfa Kamara.
He claimed that the fighting started around 10.30 a.m. local time when he saw clouds of tear gas forming outside his hostel room.
Addressing the nation via video, Vice President Mohamed Zuldeh Jaloh said, "These unscrupulous individuals have started violent and unauthorized protests, due to which innocent Sierra Leone lives including security personnel have lost their lives."
"The nationwide curfew is announced by the government," he said. The right to fully implement this directive has been given to the security sector.
In a tweet, the regional political and economic bloc ECOWAS said it condemned the violence and urged everyone to "follow law and order", as well as prosecute those responsible.
Constitutional lawyer and governance activist Augustine Sori-Sangbe Marra said dissent was boiling over for a variety of reasons, including a perceived lack of government support for the common people's struggle.
"There is little sympathy on the part of the central government to encourage people that they see them suffering, and they understand that these are tough economic times," he said.
According to the World Bank, rising prices of basic goods have also added to the long-standing despair in Sierra Leone, where more than half of the population of about 8 million lives below the poverty line.
Earlier on Wednesday, internet observatory Netblox said Sierra Leone suffered a near-total internet shutdown during the protests, with national connectivity at 5 percent of normal levels.
According to an internal letter shared widely online, on Tuesday, the national security coordinator warned the armed forces of a "potentially unstable security situation" by August 9-12 to be prepared to support the police.