GAMBIA-SENEGAL: Troops deployed at common border
Banjul, 8 May 2002 (IRIN) - The Gambia deployed troops at its border near Casamance, Southern Senegal on Sunday, following the bombardment of the village of Dimbaya by a Senegalese military plane that was pursuing rebels. No casualties were reported.
The deployment occurred although the Senegalese military had explained the bombardment to The Gambian authorities as a mistake. Their fighter pilots, the Senegalese said, did not realised that in pursuit of suspected rebels they had entered Gambian territory, officials in Banjul told IRIN.
The fighting, humanitarian sources said, went into a lull on Wednesday after four days of heavy exchange of fire between Senegalese troops and militants of the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC). The rebels are fighting for the independence of Casamance region, which is virtually separated from the rest of the country by The Gambia.
Following a fatal attack last week on a delegation of ruling party supporters canvassing for votes in Casamance, the Senegalese army launched a major offensive against the rebels. At least eight people died, the government said.
Meanwhile, media reports in Senegal said that 33 suspected rebels have been arrested by security forces since Monday in Diouloulou, 85 km north-east of the provincial capital, Ziguinchor.
At least 1500 refugees fled the fighting into The Gambia, Red Cross officials said on Monday. Most of them were women and children, the officials added.
Since the separatist MFDC movement launched its armed campaign in 1982 several peace deals have been signed with the authorities in Senegal, but none has been fully respected.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]