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Senegal extends Guinea-Bissau border blockade

BISSAU, Guinea (Reuters) -- Senegal has extended a fresh blockade of its border with Guinea-Bissau, halting traffic at the main crossing between the West African neighbors, travellers said on Sunday.

Villagers and officials in southern Senegal, which has been a regular target of raids by separatist rebels or armed robbers, first blockaded the border in early August in protest of the attacks.

A Senegalese bush taxi driver who spent Friday at the main crossing at Mpaques on the western end of the border told Reuters that the Senegalese side had been closed.

"There is no problem on the Bissau side of the border but when we arrived at the Senegalese border, soldiers refused us entry," he said.

"Vehicles from Senegal could not enter Guinea-Bissau," the driver added, after returning to the capital Bissau with his passengers.

State radio reported that dozens of trucks with goods for Bissau were blocked in Senegal just north of Salikegne at the eastern end of the border.

Senegalese villagers closed the crossing there on August 28 -- reviving the earlier blockade.

Rebels have been fighting for independence in Senegal's volatile southern tourist and farming province of Casamance since 1982.

Senegal says that the rebels operate out of Guinea-Bissau.

Villagers in southern Senegal accuse Guinea-Bissau of not doing enough to halt armed attacks on their homes, whether by armed robbers or rebels operating out of its territory.

Villagers demand restitution of stolen cattle and goods.

Presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Koumba Yalla of Guinea-Bissau agreed on August 18 to improve border security.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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