By Omar Bah
The West African troops in The Gambia, Ecomig has confirmed the death of at least two people, a Senegalese soldier and a suspected member of the separatist MFDC rebels in Southern Senegal, after a brief exchange of gunfire near the border in Foni. Unconfirmed sources said the figure could be higher.
Yesterday, residents reported hearing heavy gunfire around Ballen in Foni Kansala not far from the Casamance border. Some accounts on social media said Senegalese contingent of Ecomig allegedly attempted to confiscate a truck carrying logs from Casamance leading to the fracas after Senegalese forces reportedly pursued the driver who fled across the border to seek sanctuary.
However, when contacted for comments, the Ecomig Spokesperson, Major Alfred Marteye, said: “The Senegalese Ecomig contingent was on regular patrol and when they got to Ballen around Bajagarr area where they were fired upon by the rebels. So the patrol team returned fire and in the process, one of the rebels died and his weapon was retrieved and then on the part of the Ecomig soldiers, we registered one causality.”
“When that happened, we immediately reinforced our troops in Ballen and currently, the area is calm and we will ensure that the locals in the area are safe. We want to assure the residents we will do everything possible to make sure that they are safe,” he told The Standard.
Sources in the area said there is heavy military presence of both Ecomig and Gambian soldiers in Kampanti and Kappa while scores of families from Ballen, Funtang and Gikess ran to seek refuge at Kampanti.
The Standard contacted The Gambia government spokesman about the incident who said he did not know anything about it at the time. The local National Assembly Member Amul Nyassi who visited the area to access the situation promised to get back to us but did not do so until press time.