Three of 12 Senegalese employed by South African specialist demining company, Mechem, have been released after they were taken hostage by rebels in that country’s Casamance province earlier this month.
Those released are all women and they will be reunited with families as soon as possible a company spokesman said.
Mechem and its parent company, Denel, are working in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Senegalese government to secure the release of the remaining nine hostages.
Working through the ICRC Mechem has been able to provide the hostages with clean clothes, bedding and hygiene products as well as relay messages to their families.
“ICRC reports indicate they are unharmed and in good spirits,” a spokesman said.
The Mechem team in Senegal has been clearing areas of landmines and unexploded ordnance since August last year under the auspices of the UN Development Programme and the Senegalese National Demining Authority.
The kidnappers are thought to members of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC).
The 31-year-old separatist rebellion in Casamance is one of Africa’s longest-running insurgencies. Though largely dormant, the conflict remains an unhealed blemish on Senegal’s otherwise enviable reputation as the only country in mainland West Africa not to suffer a coup or a civil war since independence.
Various agencies have been working for several years to clear Casamance of landmines. In March the MFDC warned against further demining in the region, claiming any such operations should be agreed within the framework of peace talks.