Police fired tear gas at an angry crowd fighting over food supplies in Sierra Leone on Saturday, while other residents defied a three-day national lockdown that the government hopes will accelerate the end of the Ebola epidemic.

Sierra Leone has reported nearly 12,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths since the worst Ebola epidemic in history was detected in neighboring Guinea a year ago.

New cases have fallen sharply since a peak of more than 500 a week in December but the government says the lockdown, its second, is necessary to identify the last cases and to buck a worrying trend towards complacency.

Officials have ordered the six million residents to stay indoors on pain of arrest as hundreds of health officials go door-to-door looking for hidden patients and educating residents about the hemorrhagic fever.

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