Senegal launches operation against Casamance

The Senegalese military has launched an operation against rebels in the southern Casamance region, the chief of staff said in a statement late Sunday.

“As part of its mission to secure people and goods, the army launched an operation on Sunday, March 13, 2022, with the main goal of dismantling the bases of Salif Sadio’s MFDC faction,” the statement said.

“This operation also aims to destroy all armed gangs involved in criminal activities in the region,” it said.

“The army is still determined … to preserve the integrity of the national territory at all costs.”

The Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) has been leading a low-intensity separatist conflict in southern Senegal since 1982, a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

The MFCD is divided into several factions, one of which is led by Salif Sadio.

In the latest clash on January 24, four Senegalese soldiers were killed while seven were captured alive and taken across the border into Gambia.

The seven were released on February 14.

Casamance was in Portuguese ownership for several hundred years until it was handed over to colonial France in 1888. It became part of Senegal after the country became independent in 1960.

The region, which has a distinct culture and language, is geographically separated from the rest of Senegal by the Gambia River, around which the small state of Gambia is located.

Casamance rebels, accused of trading in timber and cannabis, have traditionally sought refuge in Gambia or Guinea-Bissau, which also borders Senegal.

The conflict had mostly been dormant until Senegal’s army launched a new major offensive last year, designed to drive out the rebels.

Senegalese President Macky Sall has made achieving “definitive peace” in Casamance a priority during his second term.

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