Thirteen youths were killed by “armed elements” in the Casamance region of southern Senegal, an area ravaged by armed conflict for more than three decades, a security source said. “Armed elements attacked young people who were looking for wood in the Bayotte forest, in an area of the commune of Boutoupa. Thirteen were killed and two were able to escape,” the source told AFP in regional capital Ziguinchor, confirming information from the Senegalese Press Agency (APS). “They would have passed the buffer zone separating the positions of the Senegalese army from those of the MFDC (Movement for Democratic Forces in Casamance), the armed independent rebellion,” said APS, not citing a source. The MFDC, separatist rebels, began fighting for independence in December 1982, but have long ceased once frequent attacks on the Senegalese army, which retains a visible presence in the area. Nine other young people were badly injured during the attack and taken to the regional hospital in Ziguinchor, according to APS.
The dead bodies were also transported to the morgue at the hospital. The attack comes a day after two MFDC fighters were released by the army following negotiations launched by Rome’s Community of Sant’Egidio, a charity with ties to the Vatican specialising in peace mediation. On Sunday, Senegalese President Macky Sall appealed to rebels in Casamance to continue talks to create a “definite peace”. At its height, the rebellion for the independence of Casamance left thousands of civilian and military personnel dead, damaged the economy and forced many residents to flee.