Arms seizure in Nigeria, allegedly bound for neighbouring Gambia, has dented Tehran’s quest for influence in Africa.
|The incident has soured relations between Senegalese president Wade, left, and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [AFP]|
Senegal has cut diplomatic ties with Iran, accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to separatist rebels in its southern Casamance region, the foreign ministry said.
“Senegal has decided to break off diplomatic relations with the Republic of Iran,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement linked the Iranian weapons with an attack on Sunday in Casamance, the latest in a string of such attacks by rebels engaged in one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts, which resulted in the deaths of three Senegalese troops.
“The report presented to the president of the Republic [Abdoulaye Wade] by the army chief of staff on recent developments in Casamance has shown that the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) was using sophisticated weapons which caused the death of Senegalese soldiers,” the statement said.
“Senegal is outraged to see that Iranian bullets caused the death of three Senegalese soldiers.”
The row is the latest in a spate of diplomatic upsets between Iran and West African nations over alleged arms smuggling that has damaged the Iranian government’s search for trade partners on the continent.
In December, Senegal recalled its ambassador to Iran, saying the government of the west African country was unsatisfied with explanations given by Iranian officials over a seizure of mortars and rockets in Nigeria in October.
Neighbouring Gambia has also cut ties with Tehran over the arms shipment.