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Senegalese Army Tries to Sweep Out Rebel Bases in Casamance

The Senegalese army and rebels in the Casamance region have been exchanging fire for more than a week around the region's capital Ziguinchor.

Since last Tuesday, gunfire has been heard throughout the southern outskirts of Ziguinchor, the capital of Senegal's Casamance region.

Senegalese soldiers are sweeping the Baraf, Kassana and Mamatoro districts, where rebels from the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance, known as the MFDC, have bases. The national army hopes to dismantle these bases.

Shooting can be heard sporadically throughout the day in town, and on Sunday the shooting lasted from 8 pm to midnight. Also on Sunday, one Senegalese soldier was killed.

Residents from the districts have fled.

Since the sweep to chase the rebels from their bases, at least three Senegalese soldiers have been killed and more than a dozen wounded.

The fighting marks a recent increase in violence in what is one of the longest-running conflicts on the African continent. The MFDC rebels have been fighting a low-level insurgency for independence in the Casamance since 1982.

The government and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance signed a peace accord in 2004, but attacks have escalated in recent months. Thousands of civilians have been displaced because of the fighting.