ZINGUINCHOR, Senegal — Residents of Senegal’s Casamance region are calling on the government to step up efforts to find attackers who killed at least 14 people who had been gathering wood.
Army Gen. Cheikh Gueye updated the death toll and said that Guinea Bissau’s army has joined the investigation into the attack about 4 miles (7 kilometers) outside of the town of Ziguinchor. He asserted that it is likely linked to illegal logging in the area.
“The army will track down criminals, whether they are on land, in the sea or in the air, they will be searched, hunted down and neutralized if necessary,” he said. “There is no question of leaving our environment to be looted by malicious individuals.”
Adama Manga mourned the death of his brother.
“We found his body in inhumane conditions. We really want the state to step up its efforts to find the culprits,” he said.
Saturday’s attack brought sadness to Senegal as many thought the bloody past in Casamance had been left behind. President Macky Sall ordered the perpetrators be brought to justice.
Suspicion initially fell on the separatist group founded in 1982 known as the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance, which wants independence for the southern Casamance region.
The MDFC group, however, has since denied responsibility for the massacre, blaming local leaders who they say run an illegal network of teak logging.
The armed wing of the MDFC 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 hostages were eventually released.
Illegal logging has plagued the region, and the government has asserted that it will look into criminality linked to the illegal activity in the area.
Wood cut from the Casamance forest is taken over the border to Gambia then exported to China, according to many experts.
Environmental experts have warned for years against accelerated deforestation in the Casamance region, calling for sanctions and harsher enforcement against such exports and illegal action.
Casamance is separated from the rest of Senegal by the nation of Gambia.
Petesch reported from Dakar. AP writer Babacar Dione also contributed to this report.