13 killed, 7 wounded by gunmen Senegal's restive Casamance region

Senegalese military says 13 people have been killed by gunmen in the southern Casamance region, where a rebellion by independentists has been raging since 1982 despite a peace accord signed in 2004. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2018

13 killed, 7 wounded by gunmen Senegal's restive Casamance region

DAKAR: Gunmen killed at least 13 people Saturday in Senegal who were gathering firewood in the forest, the military said. It was the worst attack in years in the West African nation’s restive southern region, where a separatist insurgency has dragged on for more than three decades.
The bloodshed sparked fears of renewed unrest in the area, which had been relatively calm for the last several years.
Col. Abdoul Ndiaye said late Saturday that seven others were wounded in the massacre 4 miles (7 kilometers) outside of the town of Ziguinchor, and the military stepped up its presence near the town. Casamance is separated from the rest of Senegal by the nation of Gambia.
While no immediate claim of responsibility for the slayings was made, suspicion fell on the separatist group founded in 1982 known as the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance.
The armed wing of the group had agreed to a cease-fire in 2014, and the last major attack blamed on the group had been in 2013 when rebels took 12 employees of a South African bomb disposal firm hostage. The victims, all Senegalese citizens, were eventually released.
Saturday’s deaths came just hours after the release of two prisoners belonging to the separatist group following negotiations that were mediated by the Community of Sant’Egidio.
The separatists have long argued that their region is culturally distinct from the rest of Senegal, and has suffered from inattentive governments in the country’s capital, Dakar.


Taliban ‘ready to fight’ if US unwilling to talk

Updated 15 September 2019

Taliban ‘ready to fight’ if US unwilling to talk

  • A member of a Taliban delegation visiting Moscow said the group would be interested in resuming dialogue if the US also showed interest

KABUL: The Taliban is ready to fight for “100 years” if the US is unwilling to revive peace talks, one of its representatives warned, days after President Donald Trump announced that negotiations with the militant group were over.

Talks to end the 18-year conflict screeched to a halt after Trump said he had canceled an unprecedented meeting with the group’s representatives at Camp David, and said the peace process was over after a US soldier was killed in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.

His remarkable tweets caused chaos and confusion in diplomatic circles. The tweets also caused alarm among those engaged in or following the already-fraught peace process.

A member of a Taliban delegation visiting Moscow said the group would be interested in resuming dialogue if the US also showed interest, but he also issued a warning.

“We are still committed, we want peace in Afghanistan, we want to give a safe passage for the foreign troops to go from Afghanistan,” Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai told Russian TV station RT. “If the American side is not willing (for) negotiations … we will be compelled to defend ourselves even if it continues for 100 years.” 

Abbas has taken part in at least nine rounds of talks with US diplomats in Qatar since last year. He accused Trump of not signing a treaty with the Taliban because the group had refused to meet him before it signed an agreement.

He said the Taliban had agreed to allow for the safe passage of US troops and to enforce a truce in areas from where the US planned to withdraw. The Taliban was also planning to meet the Afghan side on Sept. 23 to discuss a nationwide cease-fire and the political setup of a future government, he added.

Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted that Abbas’ remarks showed the group remained uninterested in talks.

“This time the Taliban raised their voice from Moscow and say that (they) will continue in (the) killing of Afghans; the Afghan security forces are waiting for you.”

Russia is one of the regional powers to have forged closer ties with its former foe, the Taliban, which has made gains in Afghanistan despite an increased presence of US troops. The Taliban and Russia both want a complete withdrawal of US-led forces from the country.

BACKGROUND

Talks to end the 18-year conflict screeched to a halt after Trump said he had canceled an unprecedented meeting with the group’s representatives at Camp David, and said the peace process was over after a US soldier was killed in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar office, told Arab News the group would explain its position to “friends and allies about (Trump’s) unexpected, abrupt and unjustified” cancelation of peace talks.

He added that the group could meet officials of several countries “who were also astonished by Trump’s decision” since the agreement was achieved after nearly a year of negotiations.

Waheed Mozhdah, a political analyst who knows the Taliban leaders, said the Moscow trip was part of a campaign to show the insurgents were keen to negotiate even if the US was not.

“The Taliban will have similar trips to other countries, such as China, Iran and elsewhere to say that they are ready to sign a peace deal with the Americans,” he told Arab News. “These trips will have an impact because the Taliban will argue that if Washington does not want to sign a deal, then it has other agendas, to remain in Afghanistan and cause danger for the region.”

He said the US had two options. The first was to step up the war against the Taliban, which it had done previously to little effect, and the second was to resume talks.

Mohammad Nateqi, a former diplomat, told Arab News the Moscow trip and visits within the region would also be fruitful for the start of an Afghan intra-dialogue. He said the Taliban’s move was part of its “increasing political activities and to show that if the US ceases talks, then it is after other powers to work for a peace plan.”