Kolda, Senegal - The Senegalese army and suspected separatist rebels clashed on Monday in the country's restive southern Camamance province, according to a military source.

"This morning, they (the military) learned of the presence of armed elements in the area. Soldiers in place in Sareyoba went to the area to check," the source added on condition of anonymity.

"The people (rebels) opened fire on them and they responded. There was an exchange of fire but calm quickly returned."

The incident happened 30km south of Kolda, a town to the east of Ziguinchor and near the border with Guinea-Bissau. No casualties were immediately reported.

The army's public relation's service was not available to comment.

Since Thursday, three soldiers have been killed and nine injured during operations against the rebels in the south of Ziguinchor, the biggest city in Casamance, which is separated from the rest of Senegal by the Gambia.

The poor region has been ravaged by conflict between government forces and separatist rebels since 1982.

A peace accord signed in 2004 eased tensions, but clashes have increased in the past six months leading to both military and civilian deaths.

The Senegalese army has been conducting operations for several days to clear out rebel bases. - Sapa-AFP