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Togo police kill 12-year-old boy during protest crackdown

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A 12-year-old boy in Togo was killed on Monday by police who fired in warning to disperse a protest demanding the country's schools re-open as demonstrations over the closures spread across the country, a statement said.

The west African nation's government had temporarily shut all primary and secondary schools following student protests last week that saw property destroyed.

The rallies widened on Monday, with both protesters and members of the security forces hurt in clashes that broke out in several areas.

But the most serious incident occurred in the northern town of Dapaong, where a 12-year-old boy was killed as police tried to stop a crowd from storming a local government building.

"The warning shots fired by the police resulted in the death of a student around the age of 12," a statement read on national television said.

Officials in the area were forced to call for re-enforcements as the demonstration threatened to swell.

Schools will remain closed after the day of unrest that also saw one security officer seriously hurt, property destroyed and a number of lesser casualties across the country, the statement further said.

"The government, very concerned about such an escalation of violence, decided to extend the temporary closure of all schools," the statement said.

It called on parents to help restore calm.

The protesters had taken to the streets to support their teachers, who last week staged a three-day strike demanding a 100 percent pay rise. Public health workers also went on strike with similar demands.

On Thursday and Friday, thousands of students turned out on the streets of the capital Lome and urged the government to meet their teachers' demands.

The rallies last week also caused considerable damage, the government has said.

Togo has seen waves of protests in recent months, including those led by an opposition and civil society coalition, Let's Save Togo, demanding sweeping political reforms and the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe.

The security forces have clashed with Let's Save Togo supporters, and have repeatedly used tear gas to disperse the rallies.

Dozens of people have been injured and arrested, but most were released within days of their initial detention.

The demonstrations have largely been concentrated in Lome, where the security forces have not been widely known to fire live rounds.

The government imposed a temporary ban on demonstrations in Lome amid the unrest.

Togo has been ruled by the same family for the last four decades.

The president was installed by the military in 2005 after the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema who ruled for 38 years with an iron fist.

He has since won elections in 2005 and 2010, though the opposition disputes these victories.

Legislative polls, initially scheduled for last October, have been repeatedly pushed back and a polling day has not yet been announced.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130415/togo-police-kill-12-year-old-boy-during-protest-crackdown-1