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Three Gambian men suspected of murdering a forest guard in the troubled southern region of Senegal have been arrested, police spokesperson David Kujabi has told Kerr Fatou on Tuesday.

Senegalese authorities and Gambian police said Moustapha Gueye, a guard at Niaming forest on the Senegalese side of the border, was killed last week in a village in a region popular with tourists but where illegal cross-border logging of Casamance timber has sparked tension.

“The police have arrested Ali Gai, Assan Sallah and Abdoulie Boye following the death of a Senegalese forest guard,” police spokesman DavidKujabi told AFP, adding police atBansang in the Central River Region were investigating.

“The incident happened in Keur Yorro in Casamance in Southern Senegal. The three guys were found logging in the forest and he confronted them,” Kujabie added.

The latest killing follows January‘s cold-blooded massacre of 14 loggers in the Casamance’s Bayotte forest, which has protected status on theborder with Guinea-Bissau.

A total of 24 suspects, including a local reporter, were arrested and remain in detention. The bloodbath — which came at a delicate time for peace talks for Casamance — caused some to blame a group that has led a more than 35-year armed campaign for the region’s independence.

The separatist group itself blames a fight within an illegal logging trade it says is run by corrupt officials. Senegalese authorities say the massacre was carried out by villagers with rebel support.

Meanwhile, it is not clear if the Gambian authorities will hand over the suspects to the Senegalese. Gambia and Senegal has recently signed an extradition treaty that has also allows for exchange of prisoners.

This means that the suspects even when they are sentenced by a Senegalese court can be transferred to serve their jail term in a Gambian prison.


By Mustapha K Darboe

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