Southern African bloc to investigate police handling of protests in eSwatini

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A team from the Southern African Development Community will arrive in eSwatini on Sunday, after the kingdom was rocked by pro-democracy protests and claims of a deadly crackdown.

Protesters have stepped up their campaign for political reform in recent days in the tiny landlocked country, formerly known as Swaziland.

The government deployed the army to disperse the crowds and unverified videos emerged of beatings by security forces.

Amnesty International accused them of a "frontal attack on human rights" and alleged at least 20 people had been killed.

The kingdom's government said it had invited the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to carry out "a fact-finding mission" from Sunday.

The 16-country bloc added that its team would encourage the kingdom to find a lasting solution to the dispute.

No official reports of fatalities

The eSwatini government has said it has not received any official reports of fatalities.

Internet service providers said they have been ordered to cut access to social media and online platforms until further notice.

Shops were closed during the violence but some reopened for a few hours on Saturday, according to an AFP correspondent in the capital Mbabane.

An evening curfew is in place, with a heavy police presence on the streets.

Protesters defied the curfew earlier in the week and targeted buildings linked to King Mswati III.

The violence has drawn international condemnation.