by Staff Writers
Kolda, Senegal (AFP) July 13, 2015
Twelve loggers who were kidnapped four days ago in the southern Casamance region of Senegal have been freed, an army source said Sunday.
"We have just observed the return of the 12 forestry workers... in the village of Kolling" on Sunday, the source in the town of Kolda told AFP, requesting anonymity.
The kidnappers freed them in the Yassine forest, the source added, saying he had no more details on the conditions of their release.
They had at first demanded 10 million CFA francs ($17,000, 15,000 euros) from the sawmill where the loggers work before eventually lowering the ransom to just 700,000 francs, an army source said on Friday.
In the end, a ransom of one million CFA francs was paid, local sources said.
The freed hostages were to be debriefed by police.
Casamance has been the cradle of a low-level separatist insurgency since 1982, but there appeared to be no political motive for the kidnapping.
The unrest in Casamance, a strip of land separated from the rest of Senegal by Gambia, has claimed thousands of lives, although it has been less intense in recent years.
Senegalese loggers abducted by armed gang: army source
The four sawmill workers have been held since they were abducted on Wednesday in a forest near Kolda, one of the main towns in the Casamance region, a local army officer said.
Casamance has been the cradle of a low-level separatist insurgency since 1982, but there appeared to be no political motive for the kidnapping, said the officer.
The source said the kidnappers, led by a former employee of the mill where his victims work, had employed a different method than that preferred by the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC).
They demanded 10 million west African francs ($17,000, 15,000 euros) from the sawmill at first, the source said, before eventually lowering the ransom to just 700,000 francs.
The kidnapping was confirmed by a local government source who said police and other authorities in the area were doing all they could to secure the hostages' release.
The unrest in Casamance, a strip of land separated from the rest of Senegal by the Gambia, has claimed thousands of lives, although it has been less intense in recent years.
Rights campaigners believe thousands more have been displaced by the fighting over three decades, although no precise figures are available.
Illegal logging and timber trafficking has flourished in the province, where hundreds of casualties have been caused by anti-personnel and anti-tank mines.
Locals work with foreigners in the trade despite heavy fines, and many clandestine sawmills operate in Casamance, which has vast natural resources.
The legal status of the abducted loggers was not immediately clear.
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