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ZIGUINCHOR, 4 August 2008 (IRIN) - The soaring price of cashew nuts in Senegal's restive southern region Casamance is lining the pockets of armed rebels according to Ismaïla Diédhiou, an agricultural expert who works at the local development association ASPRODEB.

"Insecurity has also risen in the forests where cashews are grown towards the Guinea-Bissau border, which has benefited the rebels who collect the nuts themselves to sell them on in Ziguinchor and Guinea-Bissau," Diédhiou said.


"Some say [selling] cashews or cannabis enables us to buy weapons. This is false... it is only our leaders who buy our weapons."

Manga blamed violence near cashew orchards on the Senegalese military which has a heavy presence in the break-away region, claiming they too profit from the cashew trade.

Lieutenant Malamine Camara, Senegalese military spokesperson in Ziguinchor, denied the allegation.

"Our mission is to ensure the safety of people and goods in this region. We never engage in profit-making activities, and we execute our mission by the rules," he said.