Senegalese police arrest four over deadly blaze

File: Senegalese policemen, trained by French instructors, take part in a drill during French Interior Minister's visit on October 7, 2016 at the Abdou Diasse police camp in Dakar. Photo: Seyllou / AFP

KOLDA - Senegalese authorities have arrested a spiritual leader and three others for a devastating fire at a Muslim retreat that killed about 30 people, police said on Wednesday.

The blaze tore through straw shelters as worshippers gathered in the town of Medina Gounass, about 530 kilometres southeast of Dakar, for a pilgrimage on April 12.

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The four were arrested on Saturday at Medina Gounass, the police said.

"They include a 72-year-old marabout, two of his disciples and his son," a police source said.

The death toll was initially put at 22 but local media reports on Wednesday said the number of fatalities could cross 30.

Senegal held three days of mourning for the victims, who included Gambians and Mauritanians.

Members of Senegal's powerful Tijaniyya Muslim brotherhood gather in their hundreds, even thousands, to worship at the site every year.

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Pilgrims were weighed down with food and luggage, local press reported.

The fire was reportedly caused by a gas canister which exploded while pilgrims were making tea in a straw shelter.

Around 95 percent of Senegal's population is Muslim and most men join Sufi brotherhoods that combine Islam with distinctive local beliefs.


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