SENEGAL: Army and rebel fighting leaves causalities on both sides

Thursday, May 22, 2008
Two soldiers were killed and two others injured on 20 May when their army patrol in the Casamance region was attacked by armed men allegedly from the rebel Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques De Casamance (MFDC), an spokesman for the army told IRIN.

“The patrol was part of an operation to secure the area of Djibidioneove [in the north of Casamance near the border with The Gambia],” Senegalese army spokesman Lieutenant Malamine Camara said.

The army had recently found several fields of marijuana in the area, he added.

Other sources told IRIN that seven of the attackers were also killed, although the army spokesman said he could not confirm the figure. 'We prefer to wait until the operation in the area is over and then we will give a final tally,” Camara said.

He did confirm the number of army causalities, as did the main hospital in the regional capital Ziguinchor.

The Casamance is an enclave in the south of Senegal that has been stricken with armed conflict for more the 25 years, since the MFDC declared independence for the region.

The government and representatives of the MFDC signed a peace accord in December 2004 but violence has continued, particularly in the north of the region.

Former MFDC Secretary General Ansoumana Badji told the Associated Press that he did not yet know why the attack took place and that he would make contact with rebels in the area to find out.

“Whether the attack was a deliberate decision made by commanders or perpetrated by combatants outside his control” he said.

The army was attacked in the same area less than a month ago and on 1 May a minibus hit a landmine there which killing 20 people.

In a serious escalation of violence in the region, earlier this month 16 villagers had their left ears hacked off by MFDC fighters for trying to harvest cashew nuts.