The death of Gambian opposition leader Solo Sandeng and the reported violent crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests in the western African nation are deeply worrying and must be investigated, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Sunday.

Witnesses and Amnesty International reported that authorities picked up protestors in the past days who had been calling for the resignation of long-time President Yahya Jammeh and election reforms in Banjul, the capital of the West African nation.

Zeid, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said there were also reports that two other opposition members died in custody, and that others suffered serious injuries.

"The death of Mr Sandeng has brought into stark focus the worrying pre-electoral environment in The Gambia, with reports of forceful suppression of peaceful demonstrations and the arrest and ill treatment of numerous protestors and members of the opposition," Zeid said.

Jammeh, who has been governing Africa's smallest nation since a military coup in 1994, said in February that he plans to run for a fifth term in the December election.

Gambians made up one of the biggest national groups of migrants who arrived in southern Italy in the first quarter of this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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