Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade visited the Casamance region last weekend to present a peace plan [AFP]
Senegalese troops have clashed with suspected separatist fighters in the troubled Casamance region, leaving three soldiers dead and six wounded, military and hospital sources say.
The clashes took place in Sindian, 50km north of the regional capital Ziguinchor, as troops were providing security for people and their property against "armed groups who terrorise them", a military source told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.
"Yesterday [Monday] at dusk... we clashed with Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) rebels, we counted three dead and six injured," the source said.
A nurse at a hospital in Ziguinchor confirmed that three bodies, and six wounded, had been taken in.
The Casamance is separated from the rest of Senegal by Gambia and is the theatre of West Africa's longest running conflict with the MFDC fighting for independence since 1982.
The conflict, which has seen periods of quiet and surges of violence, has not reached the levels of bloodshed of other wars in the region but has nonetheless claimed thousands of lives over the past three decades.
Several peace accords have failed, the MFDC is reportedly riven with divisions and rebels are often implicated in large-scale hijackings and the harassment of villagers.
Violence soared over November and December with 23 people, including 10 civilians, killed in fighting.
President Abdoulaye Wade, who promised upon his election in 2000 to solve the crisis in 100 days, visited the region which has remained a thorn in the side of his government last weekend as he campaigned for a third term in February 26 polls.
He proposed a plan which involved disarmament, demining, and five major agricultural projects.