Six people were killed in Senegal by an old landmine in the Casamance region, the local mayor said Saturday. President Macky Sall offered his condolences to the families of the victims in a statement posted on Twitter. A spokesperson for the education minister, also said two of the victims had been primary school age.
Casamance is home to one of Africa’s oldest ongoing conflicts, dating back to 1982, and the mine is believed to have been a remnant from previous fighting. It exploded Friday afternoon in the village of Kandiadiou, near the Gambian border.
“A cart hit a mine,” the mayor of Yankouba Sagna said, referring to a horse-drawn transport commonly used in Senegal. “It was carrying young people returning from Friday prayers,” he added. “The mine that exploded was not laid recently. Old mines remain in the crop fields. When it rains, they appear. We have always asked for the area to be de-mined.”
Home to 1.9 million people, Casamance was once among Portugal’s colonies in West Africa along with what is today Guinea-Bissau. But the region is now located within the former French colony of Senegal — although it is separated from most of the rest of the country by the nation of Gambia.
Casamance's geographical situation, far away from Dakar, the country's capital, has led to independence movements since December 1982 and the conflict has persisted ever since and mines placed by military and rebels alike are still in place. Unrest has returned recently until the army launched a major new offensive in January, claiming to have captured rebel bases in remote forests on the southern border.