Seven Senegalese soldiers were released in The Gambia

Separatist rebels from the southern region of Casamans Senegal on Monday handed over seven people recently captured Senegalese soldiers in The Gambia, AFP saw journalists.

The soldiers were transported across the border to an area near the Gambian village of Bajagar and taken to Gambia government officials and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, according to AFP correspondents present.

The soldiers were healthy and left the area in Red Cross jeeps.

Their release came after a clash between fighters of the Casamansa Democratic Forces Movement (MFDC) and the Senegalese army on January 24.

Four Senegalese soldiers were killed, seven captured alive.

The Senegalese military said the incident occurred during an operation to combat illegal logging on the border with the Gambia.

The MFDC is behind the low-intensity separatist conflict in the southern region of Senegal Casamans, which began in 1982 and claimed several thousand lives.

Casamance was a Portuguese possession for several hundred years until it was ceded to colonial France in 1888. It became part of Senegal after the country gained independence in 1960.

The region, which has a distinct culture and language, is geographically separated from the rest of Senegal by the Gambia River, around which lies the tiny state of Gambia. Seven Senegalese soldiers were released in The Gambia

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