Landmines claim new victims in Casamance

One man was killed and 20 passengers injured when a bus drove over a landmine near the village of Lefeu, 70km north of the Casamance capital Ziguinchor on 1 May police said.

The Gambian registered bus was driving the passengers north from Bignona 30km from Ziguinchor towards the Gambia according to Talla Diop, an officer with the Ziguinchor police force.

A Senegalese army officer who wished to remain anonymous claimed the mine was laid by rebels with the Movement of Democratic Forces for Casamance (MFDC), to protest the Senegalese army reinforcing its position in the area.

Youssouf Coly, resident of a nearby village, agreed. ''I am convinced it is the rebels who have laid this mine and they are targeting the army,” he said.

Talla told IRIN the mine must have been laid recently since the road has relatively heavy traffic and many cars had passed that morning.

This is the second landmine incident this week. On 27 April a Senegalese soldier was injured by a landmine near the frontier of Guinea-Bissau.

According to non-governmental organisation Handicap International, landmines have killed or injured approximately 1,000 people in Casamance since 1990.

In September 2006 a staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed by a landmine on the same stretch of road.

The MFDC rebels say they are fighting for an independent Casamance, although many civilians in the isolated province say they are no longer interested in separating from Senegal.

Violent incidents continue to take place in violation of a December 2004 peace accord. Local observers in Casamance have said they are concerned about an upsurge in violence in recent months after a period of relative calm in late 2007.

mad/aj/nr