A Senegalese Koran teacher suspected of raping 27 of his female students was arrested on Monday after several weeks on the run, a police source told AFP.
The man is accused of assaulting the students at his school in the holy city of Touba in central Senegal, a local police official said.
The suspect went missing after the accusations emerged earlier this year following a complaint from alleged victims who produced medical certificates, the source added.
He was arrested on Monday “after handing himself over to the police. After questioning, he was handed over to the gendarmerie,” the official said.
The source said the teacher is accused of “raping 27 students” but did not provide precise details on the dates of the alleged crimes or the age of the complainants.
Local media reported that the alleged victims were “minors”, implying they were under 15, and that the Koranic school has been closed.
The newspaper “Le Jour” wrote last week that the affair came to light when one of the girls refused to return to the school, where students learn about Islamic teachings, because the teacher “had sexual relations with her and all the other girls”.
Touba is considered a holy city by the Mourides, a major Islamic brotherhood in the Muslim-majority West African country.
The arrest comes after opposition figurehead Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in jail for inciting a young woman to “debauchery”, although he was cleared of a rape charge.
Sonko’s legal battles over the rape allegations had captured media attention for two years, but the issue of sexual violence faded into the background as the affair became increasingly politicised.
Senegal criminalised rape in 2020.