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Top Casamance Official Assassinated, Say Senegalese Officials


Senegalese officials say they are investigating the killing of a top politician in the country's southern Casamance region. Separatist groups in Casamance have waged a two-decade long battle for independence. For VOA, Jordan Davis reports from Dakar.

Officials say armed men entered El-Hadj Oumar Lamine Badji's home in the early morning hours. The attackers allegedly set the home ablaze and slit Badji's throat. He was the president of the Casamance regional council.

Army spokesman Colonel Antoine Wardini says his troops arrived on the scene soon after.

Wardini says the attackers had fled, but witnesses reported seeing a number of armed men dressed in civilian clothes. Officials say the identity of the attackers is still unknown.

The armed separatist group known as the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance has waged a battle for the region's independence since 1982.

Rebels and the government signed a peace deal in 2004, but further talks have been delayed since then. Some rebel factions saw the agreement as a betrayal.

Reacting to the news of Badji's killing on state radio, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said he believed opponents of the peace process were behind it. Badji was a leading member of Mr. Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party.

Mr. Wade made peace in Casamance a key campaign promise when he was elected seven years ago. He is up for re-election in two months.

Battles between Senegalese forces and Casamance rebels during the past two decades have left hundreds dead, and landmines are scattered across the region. In recent weeks, gunmen ambushed a Senegalese army convoy involved in de-mining operations, killing two people and injuring 14.

Casamance is an isolated region of Senegal, cut off from the rest of the country by The Gambia.