Two Senegalese soldiers killed, nine missing after clash with separatists

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DAKAR (Reuters) - Two Senegalese soldiers were killed and nine were likely taken hostage when they went missing during fighting with separatist rebels in neighbouring Gambia, Senegal's army said on Tuesday.

One rebel from the Movement of Democratic Forces for Casamance (MFDC) was also killed and three captured by Senegalese forces in the fighting on Monday, an army statement said.

"The nine missing soldiers are probably held hostage by the MFDC. Operations are ongoing to find them and secure the zone."

The soldiers were monitoring timber trafficking as part of a multinational force in Gambia, which is bordered on three sides by Senegal.

The MFDC was formed in 1982 to fight for independence for Senegal's southern region of Casamance, which borders Gambia.

The movement has been largely dormant since a ceasefire in 2014 but has been blamed by the Senegalese government for occasional attacks since then and continues to finance itself through timber trafficking between Senegal and Gambia.

(Reporting by Diadie Ba; writing by Aaron Ross, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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