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Operation Casamance: At least 6,000 people flee to the Gambia

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An estimated 6,000 people have taken refuge in the Gambia after fleeing the violence in the past week between the army and rebels in Casamance, in the south of neighboring Senegal, the Gambian authorities announced on Saturday 19 March.

The Senegalese army announced that it had launched an operation on March 13 against rebels in Casamance, a region separated from northern Senegal by the Gambia. The army had indicated that “their main objective is to dismantle the bases” of rebel military leader Salif Sadio, located along the northern border with the Gambia.

The number of people fleeing the violence since March 13 now stands at 6350, including 4508 displaced people, said the Gambian National Crisis Management Agency, in an official document transmitted Saturday to AFP.

“Because of the situation in the Casamance region of Senegal, the Foni Kansala area has become a safe haven for both refugees and IDPs,” the statement read in part. “These people can no longer stay in their homes because of the proximity of the fighting and overall implications of the ongoing conflict.”

Foni Kansala, located in the Gambian territory, borders Casamance and is close to the area where fighting is taking place between the Senegalese army and rebels of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which has been fighting for independence in that region since 1982.

Senegalese President Macky Sall has made “definitive peace” in Casamance the priority of his second term.