Senegal’s government vowed to be “relentless” in tracking down and bringing to justice those responsible for the execution of 13 people by armed gunmen in the country’s southern Casamance region, an area ravaged by armed conflict for more than three decades.
Gunmen ordered a group of men and youths, out looking for wood, to lie on the ground deep in the forest before opening fire, a survivor said following the first upsurge in violence in the isolated Senegalese region in years.
President Macky Sall, condemning an “armed attack of rare barbarity”, summoned his national security council and ordered a ministerial delegation to the scene.
“A hard and relentless hunt will be conducted to find the perpetrators of this despicable act,” interior minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye told Senegalese press agency APS during a visit to survivors at the hospital in Ziguinchor, the region’s capital.
Hospital workers who have seen the bodies said some of the victims had been shot, others decapitated. The dead are said to be teenagers. It is not clear yet who carried out the attack.
Ten of the 13 killed were shot dead, two were stabbed to death and one was burned. Half a dozen more were wounded, with the most seriously hurt being transferred to Dakar for treatment.
The bloodshed was confirmed by Col. Abdoul Ndiaye to be the worst in years and immediately sparked fears of renewed unrest in the south, where separatists have sought independence for more than 30 years in the West African nation.
Their deaths came hours after the release of two prisoners belonging to the separatist group known as the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the slayings, suspicion fell on the separatist group.
Local media suggested the youths were attacked by a group hostile to the MFDC while collecting wood. Once home to a thriving tourist industry, Casamance is separated from the Senegalese capital, Dakar, by The Gambia.
The movement has been largely dormant since a ceasefire in 2014. However, many areas remain off-limits because of landmines and arms stockpiles. President Sall called in his New Year address for dialogue with the rebels and a lasting peace.
Source: News Agencies