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Six Senegalese soldiers were killed in an ambush near the country's border with Guinea-Bissau late Friday. Senegalese rebels in the area have been stepping up their attacks.
The soldiers were returning from patrol late Friday when they were ambushed in an attack thought to have been carried out by rebels from the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC).
Six soldiers were killed and three injured in the ambush in the Niagha district along Senegal's border with Guinea Bissau, about 120 kilometers east of the regional capital Ziguinchor.
It is one of the deadliest attacks against Senegalese troops in recent years and comes a day after gunmen killed one person and wounded three others in an attack on a taxi in the region.
A reporter for VOA in Casamance says more than 1,000 civilians have fled the area near the Bissau border and are camping along the national highway toward Ziguinchor.
The Senegalese air force last month bombed rebel bases near Ziguinchor after suspected MFDC fighters killed a soldier at an army outpost. Two people were killed in an attack on a bus in August.
The Casamance is Senegal's southern district, separated geographically from the rest of the country by Gambia. The rebellion there is one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.
It was originally begun as a separatist movement of ethnic Dioula fighting for greater autonomy from the government in Dakar. A 2004 peace accord restored order in Casamance and led to hopes that the region might once again become a valuable tourist destination.
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But attacks have grown this year with rebels accusing President Abdoulaye Wade's government of neglecting the people of Casamance, who produce much of the nation's grain.
Local government officials are calling for renewed talks with the MFDC movement. A communiqué last month, attributed to the head of one of the group's factions, said the rebels prefer negotiations but were provoked by the military in recent clashes.
In a nation-wide address last month, President Wade deplored the recent violence and vowed to pursue peace efforts with the MFDC.