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Street hawkers protest after Senegal man's death (5)

(ANSA) - Rome, May 3 - Street hawkers blocked traffic in Rome Wednesday protesting the death of a Senegalese street hawker they said was knocked over by a traffic cop in civvies, a claim the police denied - while there were other reports he had suffered a sudden heart attack. Nian Maguette, 54, who had been in Italy for around 20 years and has two daughters here, died fleeing from a police clampdown on illegal selling when he was allegedly knocked over by a traffic warden on a scooter in civilian clothing, other African hawkers said. They said a stain on the pavement near the riverside Lungotevere street was the blood of Maguette. "He was running away and slipped and banged his head," said one of the witnesses. Other witnesses reportedly said Maguette collapsed on his own, without being hit by any vehicle, and may have had a heart attack. "He fell on his own, it looked like he had a bad turn," said a man who said he saw Maguette through the window of the shop he worked in. Another shop assistant said "he was corpulent, carrying a big black bag". An autopsy has been ordered into Maguette's death. Police gathered at the scene where the street hawkers protested the alleged incident, blocking the Lungotevere thoroughfare. Maguette was not run over by a traffic cop, Rome municipal police HQ said Wednesday, denying the hawkers' reports. "There is no direct link between the anti-illegal selling operation and the death of the Senegalese citizen which took place about 500 metres away," it said. "The agents who intervened say there was no pursuit," it said, voicing sympathy with the man's family and the whole Senegalese community. Deputy Rome municipal police chief Antonio Di Maggio said "we are sorry for this incident that has struck the Senegalese community. I flatly deny that any of the sellers who were checked was pursued. "We hope prosecutors wil clear this up". Police said they feared the protests might have turned violent. Rome prosecutors opened a probe into Maguette's death, against person or persons unknown and without any charges as yet.

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