New clashes between the Senegalese army and Casamance pro-independence militias

Al least 3 soldiers have died in the last days in military operations · President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade backs dialogue with moderate rebels · Pro-independence supporters differ on the negotiator they must send to Dakar due to division · 2004 peace agreement has not put an end to conflict.

The army of Senegal has launched a new military campaign against the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), the main armed pro-independence organization within this territory under Senegalese administration spreading out between Gambian and Guinea Bissau borders. Violent clashes have resulted in 3 Senegalese soldiers dead and 9 wounded since last Thursday, and highlight the low intensity conflict in Casamance since the failed 2004 peace agreement.

After last week's raids, president of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade said he was prepared to start talks with pro-independence defenders seeking peace, dismissing "extremists". Wade further added he would not reject a meeting with, for instance, MFDC's moderate leader César Badiate, but would refuse to meet with Salif Sadio, who is regarded as a radical pro-independence chief.

Statements by Wade show a sharp division within MFDC, the pro-independence hegemonic force in Casamance since the conflict broke off in 1982. After MFDC historic leader Diamacoune Senghor's death in 2007, a number of splits within the movement have weakened the MFDC and hampered the peace process Wade and Senghor signed in 2004.

According to France Presse, the background to the current violence relates to the opposition to César Badiate's leadership, which seeks to start talks with Dakar's government.

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