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Three soldiers killed by Casamance rebels: military source

by Staff Writers
Ziguinchor, Senegal (AFP) Feb 20, 2011
Three soldiers were killed and six injured in an attack by suspected separatist rebels in Senegal's troubled Casamance region on Sunday, a military official told AFP.

An army camp in the Senegalese village Karongue, 75 kilometres (45 miles) north of the regional capital Ziguinchor was attacked around 0700 GMT, the official said.

The latest deaths bring to 15 the number of Senegalese soldiers killed since December 27 in the region, wracked by a three-decade-long separatist rebellion by the Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC).

In a statement released on January 23, the MFDC said it planned to extend "all hostilities in the Casamance to oust" the Senegalese army from the region.

An armed rebellion for independence has been under way in Casamance, separated from the rest of Senegal by Gambia, since 1982, and sporadic violence has continued despite a peace accord signed in 2004.

Peace talks have stalled since early 2005, hampered by the fact that the MFDC is split into different factions.

A recent surge in violence has exasperated the population and in mid-January more than 1,000 women marched in Ziguinchor demanding "an immediate halt to killings" and "the immediate resumption of negotiations".

President Abdoulaye Wade, in power for the past 10 years, briefly touched on the situation in Casamance during his New Year's speech, saying his government was "open to dialogue" with the MFDC in spite of "regrettable recent events".

This week he asked his government to swiftly come up with a social programme to reintegrate former rebels.

A political leader of the MFDC, Ansoumane Badji, recently wrote to the African Union to ask the pan-African body to organise a self-determination referendum in Casamance.

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