Dakar — Senegal's interior ministry has announced the suspension of all licences it awarded civilians that guaranteed them to legally carry arms ahead of polls in February.
A statement by the ministry on Friday night said the suspension takes immediate effect and will stay put for four months. The move is in the "best interest of civilians and will further intended to protect and guarantee peace and security in the country," the statement said.
It did not provide further details or explanations for the decision which many have described as "belated".
Informed sources said about half a million civilians including a few foreigners among them diplomats were authorised holders of light arms in the country of about 13 million inhabitants.
The suspension of the licences stems from the last weekend's tense security situation emanating from the build up to the heated presidential election. The tension led to a shooting incident during which a civilian was killed in the immediate suburbs of Dakar.
Following that incident, the youthful opposition Mayor of Mermoz district Mr Bathelemy Diaz, was arrested and jailed by a magistrate's court for illicit possession and use of firearms and manslaughter.
The mayor's lawyers slammed the trial and described it a "legal farce".
Mr Diaz' father, Jean-Paul Diaz, was the sole Senegalese Christian and leader of an opposition party but joined the erstwhile ruling Parti Socialist and was considered a charismatic and populist youth mobiliser.
Legal analysts say the could face life imprisonment when his trial finally takes place in a fortnight.
The incident followed a shoot out between Mr Diaz and an unidentified group of armed men whom the mayor alleged were a hired gun by the ruling party who attempted to assassinate him.
Another opposition politician Prof Abdoulaye Bathily also explained that a similar armed group in a pick up vehicle had visited his resident but was warded off by his personal security.
Prof Bathily alleged that the vehicle in which the armed men were driving was subsequently found parking at the headquarters of the ruling Parti Democratique Sénégalais.