Dakar – Senegal’s army said on Tuesday that it had “totally destroyed” several rebel bases belonging to southern separatists, with one soldier killed and eight wounded in the military operation.
On March 13, the army announced that it had launched an operation in the Casamance region of the West African state, aiming to dismantle bases of Salif Sadio’s rebel MFDC faction.
The Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) has led a low-intensity separatist conflict in southern Senegal since 1982, which has claimed several thousand lives.
However, the Casamance conflict had mostly lain dormant until Senegal launched a major offensive last year designed to drive out the rebels.
In a clash on January 24, four Senegalese soldiers were killed and seven were captured alive and taken across the border to The Gambia. The rebels released the hostages the following month.
On Tuesday, the army stated that it “totally destroyed or occupied” rebel bases in several areas of Casamance.
One Senegalese soldier was killed in the latest operation and eight were wounded, it added.
Several rebels were also killed, the army said without specifying a number, while others fled leaving behind arms and materiel.
“These criminal gangs will be hunted down to their last entrenchments, inside the national territory and everywhere else,” the army said.
Recent fighting in Casamance has sent inhabitants of border villages in the tiny river state of The Gambia fleeing further inland.
The Gambia’s government vowed last week that it would neither allow its territory to “be used as a launching pad nor allow anyone to enter the country with arms and ammunition”.
Casamance rebels, who are accused of trafficking timber and cannabis, have traditionally sought refuge in The Gambia or Guinea-Bissau, which also borders Senegal.
Senegalese President Macky Sall has made achieving “definitive peace” in Casamance a priority of his second term.
Casamance was a Portuguese possession for several hundred years until it was ceded to colonial France in 1888. It became part of Senegal after the country gained independence in 1960.
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