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Army says Gambia would not be used as base to attack casamance

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By Omar Bah

The Gambia Armed Forces has issued a stern warning that it will no longer tolerate the use of Gambian territory as a safe haven to either attack MFDC rebels in Casamance or Senegalese forces in the country.

GAF director of operations, Lieutenant Colonel Yerro NA Jallow, who led a delegation of senior military officers, parliamentarian and chief of Foni Kansala, told the villagers of Ballen where the shooting took place that the army will henceforth take control of the border.

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“We will continue to defend the territorial integrity of the country at all times. Your safety and the safety of your properties will be guaranteed and we can assure that no individual or group will be allowed to use this country as a safe haven to launch attacks.”

He told the villagers that President Barrow and chief of defence staff “are very concerned about the incident and will do everything to protect” the area.

The commander of Kanilai 4 Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Omar Bojang, urged all families who deserted their villages to return saying the military is working on building confidence with the residents.

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“We urged all residents and Gambians in general to avoid spreading unverified information. My battalion will ensure that the peace and security of the area is guaranteed,” Lt Col Bojang said.

He said the army has been active along the border to ensure the area is safe for residents.

“We have checked all the border lines to ensure that the place is safe so we are closely monitoring the area and the residents can be assured that GAF will do everything to restore total normalcy in the area,” Lt Col Bojang said.

Return to normalcy  

Normalcy is gradually returning in Ballen and its surrounding villages affected by the shooting as those who reportedly left the villages are returning but not without fears for their safety.

A teary-eyed Ballen village VDC chairman, Saikouna Bojang, told The Standard: “Monday’s incident was terrifying. We felt neglected because we looked around but we could not see our Gambian soldiers. Imagine foreign forces fighting rebels on Gambian soil and Gambian soldiers are nowhere to be seen.

“That was hard to take because we were left in the middle between rebels and Senegalese soldiers fighting on Gambian territory. We were shocked and scared because if the Gambian soldiers were around it wouldn’t have happened.”

“We are still not feeling safe in our own country. We don’t want them [Senegalese forces] here because they are not here for our security. They should leave. This is The Gambia. We want Gambian soldiers to give us protection, not foreign troops.”

The alkalo of Kappa, Dembo Badjie, said they were worried since the incident but they feel reassured by the presence of Gambian soldiers.

“We want to urge the government to replace the Senegalese forces with the Gambian army. We feel more secure and safe seeing Gambian soldiers around us,” the old man said.

Reacting to the concerns raised by the villagers about the continued presence of Ecomig troops in Foni, National Assembly Member for Kansala, Musa Amul Nyassi, told journalists that discussions are underway regarding the issue saying his position is that the forces should be withdrawn from the area as quickly as possible.

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