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January Today in Terrorism

January 6, 2018: Shootings in Senegal

On this day in 2018 thirteen people were killed in an attack in the southern Senegalese region of Casamance.

CASAMANCE, SENEGAL – It is disconcerting how often independence movements resort to terrorism.

Today’s featured attack is a first. At least I think it is. This is the first time I have chosen to recall an attack in Senegal, a smallish (15 million inhabitants) on Africa’s West Coast.

Like much of West Africa, Senegal was once a colony, this one of France. Originally the country was of interest to European powers as it served as a seaport access to the slave trade. At least half of the 400,000 or so unfortunate souls sold into captivity in the US came from what is now Senegal.

transatlantic slave trade
Whatever happened to “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?? (Photo: Getty Images)

Senegal gained its independence from France in 1960 and is an outlier in Africa in that it does not appear to have nearly as many deep-rooted governance and violence issues as far too many of its continental neighbours.

This is not to say all is paradise, however.

On this day in 2018

Thirteen people were killed in an attack in the southern Senegalese region of Casamance. Hospital workers who saw the bodies said some of the victims, all of whom were apparently teenagers, had been shot, others decapitated.

It is uncertain which group carried out the massacre. A bunch called the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance), which wants independence, has been around since 1982, although there has been a ‘ceasefire’ in place with government forces since 2014. Others surmised that the youths were attacked by a group hostile to the MFDC while collecting wood.

Whatever the underlying truth, this is one more example of a terrorist group seeking to sow fear and anxiety in the furtherance of some political or ideological goal. As if Africa does not have enough problems on its hands already.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of five books on terrorism.

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