DAKAR, Senegal —Security sources and eyewitnesses say “armed elements” in the Casamance region of southern Senegal, an area which has faced armed conflict for more than three decades, attacked and killed 13 young people who were looking for wood in the Bayotte forest, in an area of the commune of Boutoupa.
Security sources in Ziguinchor, the regional capital of Casamance, confirmed that thirteen young people were killed and two escaped.
On Monday, a notorious rebel movement in the southern region of Senegal blamed the massacre of the 13 young men over the weekend on a conflict resulting from the illegal teak logging industry.
The Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) issued a statement on its website saying it “firmly condemns” the killings, which it said sought to wreck efforts to restore peace to the troubled Casamance region.
The movement “will not let itself be distracted or disorientated by the gravediggers of peace”, said the group, which has been pressing for the independence of Casamance since 1982.
The MFDC in Casamance has called on the Senegalese authorities to “focus their inquiries” on local military and government officials “who are at the head of a vast network of illegal logging and selling of teak.”
Forestry industry sector analysts say teak is a high-value tropical hardwood whose resilience makes it prized for use in boat decking and outdoor furniture.
The killing of the young people is linked to a conflict between sawmill operators, “whose fierce competition has instilled animosity between workers,” the MFDC rebel group added.
The government said 10 of the young people were shot dead, two were stabbed to death and one was burned while half a dozen was wounded.
Casamance, a restive region separated from the rest of Senegal by The Gambia, has been the mark of an independent campaign for more than 35 years.
The region became calm after President Macky Sall came to office. Hence, in October 2016, France, the former colonial power, removed Casamance from its list of danger zones for tourists visiting the country.
In October 2017, the Sall government and the rebel faction met in Rome to revive a peace process under the Catholic organization known as Sant’Egidio.