* Iran in diplomatic rows over alleged arms smuggling
* Iranian weapons seized in Nigeria late last year
DAKAR, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Senegal severed diplomatic ties with Iran on Wednesday, accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to separatist rebels in its southern Casamance region that killed three Senegalese soldiers this week.
It was the latest of a spate of diplomatic upsets between Iran and West African nations over alleged arms smuggling that has damaged Tehran’s search for trade partners on the continent.
“Senegal is outraged to note that Iranian weapons brought about the death of Senegalese soldiers. Consequently, Senegal has decided to severe its diplomatic ties with the republic of Iran, starting this day,” a foreign ministry announcement on state TV said around midnight.
The statement linked the Iranian weapons with an attack on Sunday in Casamance, the latest in a string of such attacks by rebels engaged in one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.
“The rebels of the Democratic Forces of Casamance used sophisticated weapons, which caused the deaths of the Senegalese soldiers,” the statement said.
In December, Senegal recalled its ambassador to Iran, saying it was unhappy with explanations given by Tehran over a seizure of mortars and rockets in Nigeria in October. Neighbour Gambia — the next destination for the arms — cut ties completely.
A Nigerian court charged an alleged member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and three Nigerians last November over it. (Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Maria Golovnina)