Twelve bomb disposal experts abducted in Senegal

Suspected separatist rebels have abducted 12 bomb disposal experts in southern Senegal, a security source said Saturday.

The source said the "armed band" was suspected of belonging to the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC), which has been fighting for independence of southern Senegal for some three decades.

A source close to the government's mine-clearing agency said the 12 were abducted Friday in the village of Kailou, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the region's main city Ziguinchor.

The hostages include women, the source said.

A source close to the Senegalese army confirmed the abduction.

The MFDC has been fighting for independence for Casamance, a region separated from northern Senegal by Gambia, since 1982 in west Africa's longest-running conflict.

The fighting has claimed thousands of lives and displaced thousands more, but no precise toll is available.

Hundreds of the casualties have been caused by anti-personnel and anti-tank mines.