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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 14:18 GMT
Clashes in Casamance
Five people have been killed in an attack by armed men in Casamance, the southern province of Senegal where rebels have been fighting government troops for 20 years.

The incident happened on Monday night, when 200 fighters attacked the coastal resort of Kafountine, overpowered government troops and looted shops, camping grounds and hotels.

All those killed are reported to be Senegalese workers.

Officials say the raid was carried out the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which has been fighting to create a separate state in southern Senegal.

Empty beaches

The BBC's Chris Simpson in Dakar says the violence in Casamance tends to be sporadic, with occasional ambushes and fire fights. It is often difficult to differentiate between guerrilla actions and generalised banditry.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade
President Wade wants peace in Casamance
The war in the south has proved highly disruptive and damaging to the civilian population, and has also hit hard at Senegal's tourism industry.

Casamance used to draw thousands of French tourists every year, but numbers have dropped significantly because of the insecurity.

A French court is currently investigating the disappearance of four French tourists believed to have been abducted by Casamance rebels in 1995.

Rebel splits

President Abdoulaye Wade, who came to office two years ago, has pledged to make a solution to the Casamance conflict a priority.

Last year his government signed a peace agreement with the MFDC.

Senegalese rebel
Some rebels have not signed the peace deal
But there has been little follow-up, with the separatist movement going through a series of splits and leadership changes.

The latest attack came as new efforts were taking place to secure peace in Casamance.

Different sections of the MFDC held talks with Senegalese officials on Monday and Tuesday in the Gambian capital, Banjul.

But the MFDC's senior figure, Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor - who has called on rebels to lay down their arms - did not take part.

See also:

10 Aug 01 | Africa
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