Senegalese military have launched an offensive operation against fighters allied to the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance, a separatist group in the southern region of the country.
The Senegalese Chief of staff said in a statement issued on Sunday. “As part of their regalian missions of securing people and property, the armies launched an operation on Sunday, March 13, 2022, whose main objective is to dismantle the bases of the MFDC faction of Salif Sadio”.
“In the framework of their mission to secure people and goods, the army on Sunday 13 March 2022, launched an operation with the main objective of dismantling the bases of Salif Sadio’s MFDC faction,” the statement said.
“This operation also aims to destroy all armed bands participating in criminal activities in the region,” it said.
“The army remains determined to preserve the integrity of the national territory at all costs.”
The Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) has led a low-intensity separatist conflict in southern Senegal since 1982, a conflict that has claimed several thousand lives.
The MFCD is split into several factions, with one headed by Salif Sadio. The mission comes weeks after the death of four Senegalese soldiers and the capture of seven others by the MFDC fighters as both parties fought in the border area with the Gambia.
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.
The MFDC’S rebellion, which has thrived on perceived marginalisation of the region wedged between The Gambia to its north and Guinea-Bissau to the south, dates back to 1982.
The conflict had been mostly dormant until Senegal’s army launched a major new offensive last year, designed to drive out the rebels.
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Senegalese President Macky Sall has made achieving “definitive peace” in Casamance a priority of his second term.