The army launched an operation against the rebels "in response to secessionist rebels' recent campaigns of placing mines in the area," after a soldier was killed by a landmine on 5 January. The MFDC has been a thorn in the government's side for the last 20 years, although since the late 90s they has been engaged in negotiations with the government. At the end of August, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade had expressed willingness to explore larger scale negotiations with the group.
While the MFDC may once have had some legitimate political agenda, it degenerated into a group of drug-runners who had no moral problems using antipersonnel landmines to extract bribes from the local citizenry. The MFDC would surround a village with mines in the middle of the night, let a goat-herder or farmer kill himself and then demand all manner of valuables in exchange for the location of those mines.
Casamance is Senegal's southernmost and largely separated from the rest of the country by the Gambia River and the country of Gambia (which straddles it). Ziguinchor is the region's primary city and home to the Cap Skirring resort, which is very popular with French tourists. Many of those tourists decided to interrupt their vacation and return home.
Senegal has 650 troops on standby for peacekeeping duty in the Ivory Coast, but if the rebels in the Casamance are on the warpath, will those troops go anywhere? Furthermore, the promised Senegalese troops would now only go to Ivory Coast once they were assured of better armaments, because they realized that they would be entering a tougher situation than first foreseen. They now expect the French to provide the weapons and other countries (like the United States) to help with transport. - Adam Geibel
Senegal map online at: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/africa/senegal.gif
After nearly six months of truce, fighting between government troops and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) has flared up again in the troubled southern province of Casamance. The most-recent clashes have left 30 rebels and 4 government soldiers dead, with 24 soldiers wounded. Heavy fighting and the use of artillery was reported overnight on 7/8 January near Nyassia, about 20km south-west of the region's main city Ziguinchor.