Influential Senegalese sect leader dies

Dakar, Senegal - Serigne Saliou Mbacke, head of Senegal's influential Mouride Islamic sect and the personal religious adviser of President Abdoulaye Wade has died at the age of 92, local media said Saturday.

Mbacke, who died Friday, was the last surviving son of Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke, who founded the brotherhood in 1883.

He was buried in the holy city of Touba, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of the capital Dakar. Wade attended the ceremony, a source in the presidency told AFP.

Senegal declared three days of national mourning on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, "when the flags will be flying at half-mast," an official in the presidency said.

The state will also put 100 buses at the disposal of mourners in Dakar on Sunday and Monday to enable them to visit the grave in Touba, he said.

State television said several cultural and sporting events had been cancelled.

Mbacke had built several Islamic schools in Senegal and figured among the 100 most influential Africans in a list drawn up by the French "Jeune Afrique" weekly.

His father, Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke, aided in the mass conversion of the ethnic Wolof people from tribal paganism to Islam and became the founder of the Mouride sect.

Many Senegalese looked to the brotherhood for leadership in the fight against French colonial authorities.

Fearing a holy war, the French exiled him to Gabon from 1895 until November 1902, and again to Mauritania from June 1903 to 1907.

The Mouride wield tremendous economic clout in Senegal, where 95 percent of the population is Muslim. Many of its members live in the United States and in Europe.

Their holy city of Touba, founded by Bamba in 1888, has grown to be Senegal's second-largest after Dakar, with some 1.5 million inhabitants.