Separatist rebels from Senegal’s southern Casamance region on Monday handed over seven recently captured Senegalese soldiers in The Gambia, AFP reporters saw.
The soldiers were taken across the border to an area near the Gambian village of Bajagar and delivered to officials from the Gambian government and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, according to AFP correspondents present.
The soldiers appeared in good health and left the area in Red Cross jeeps.
Their release comes after a clash between fighters from the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) and the Senegalese army on January 24.
Four Senegalese soldiers were killed, while seven were captured alive.
Senegal’s military said the incident occurred during an operation to combat illegal logging on the border with The Gambia.
The MFDC is behind a low-intensity separatist conflict in Senegal’s southern region of Casamance that dates back to 1982 and has 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 separated geographically from the rest of Senegal by the Gambia River, around which lies the tiny state of The Gambia.