Suspected rebels kill 3 Senegalese soldiers: source

Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:00pm GMT

DAKAR (Reuters) - Three Senegalese soldiers were killed and six wounded over the weekend by suspected separatist rebels in the southern Casamance region, a security source said on Monday.

The attack on Sunday at Carongue, 70 km (43 miles) north of Ziguinchor, the region's main city, was the latest in a string of attacks in recent months by rebels engaged in one of West Africa's longest-running conflicts.

"They attacked an army observation post. They killed three soldiers and wounded six, three of whom are in a serious condition," the security source told Reuters, asking not to be named.

The military was not immediately available to comment.

Casamance is the main blot on Senegal's reputation as an island of stability in an often violent region.

Rebels have been waging a low-level insurgency since the early 1980s, leaving the southern region, which is still a popular tourist destination and was once the country's breadbasket, hovering between a state of war and peace.

There have been several ceasefires and efforts at peace talks but these have made little progress and have been undermined by divisions within rebel ranks.

Senegal's neighbours, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, have long been accused of sheltering rebels, and security sources in Senegal say the rebels are now better armed than before.

The seizure of Iranian arms headed for Gambia late last year sparked a diplomatic incident, and Dakar temporarily withdrew its ambassador to Tehran. Security sources said some of the weapons could have been destined for rebels in Casamance.

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