Three injured in Sierra Leone Ebola clashes

People walk under an Ebola's information board featuring Sierra Leone's president Ernest Bai Koroma on January 22, 2016 in a street of Freetown. (AFP Photo/Sia-Kambou) (AFP/File)

Freetown (AFP) - Three youths were seriously injured in clashes with police in Sierra Leone Tuesday after authorities ordered village traders to shut up shop while they hunted for people who may have had contact with an Ebola victim, witnesses said.

Angry youths allegedly burnt down a police post in the northern village of Barmoi Luma, reports said, as police fired tear gas to disperse angry crowds.

Witnesses told AFP by telephone that three youths were seriously hurt, with one shot in the head and another in the leg.

Authorities said the trouble started Saturday when 30 local people were quarantined for having potentially had contact with Marie Jalloh, a 22-year-old who died of Ebola on January 12.

Some 50 others who may have come into contact with Jalloh went into hiding in the community, which is deeply suspicious of western treatments for the deadly virus.

A town chief told AFP that police in Barmoi Luma had ordered market traders to halt business and shops to close from Saturday "to minimise any risk of contact with the runaway contacts", and they had remained shuttered.

"This has angered residents who said the actions of the police were arbitrary since Marie Jalloh did not die in Barmoi Luma but in Magburaka," he said.

Health authorities believe Jalloh fell ill in Barmoi Luma before travelling to the city of Magburaka some 100 kilometres (62 miles) away.

Witness Fatu Jalloh told AFP: "Temper flared up this morning when the police tried to enforce the no-trading order and dozens of youths and women rushed into the streets, hurling sticks and stones at police search teams."

She added: "I saw seven people injured, three of them seriously... There were lots of tear gas smoke and people were dashing for cover."

Doctors at the Italian-run Emergency Hospital in the capital Freetown confirmed that three seriously injured patients had been brought from the area but declined to give further details.

Police have denied using live bullets to quell the disturbance.

Francis Hazeley, a local police commander, told reporters: "We did not use live shots but used tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters."

Reports said the area was now calm, with police withdrawing to the nearby town of Kambia on the request of community leaders.

Senior officials including Health Minister Abu Bakarr Fofonah and national police chief Francis Munu were holding urgent talks with local authorities in Kambia.

Jalloh's death came just a day after west Africa had celebrated the end of the Ebola epidemic which cost 11,000 lives.

Her aunt has since also been diagnosed with the virus, with an official saying Friday that she was responding well to treatment.