Salem Radio Network News Monday, September 25, 2023


Mali rebels briefly seize army base in northern town

By Tiemoko Diallo

BAMAKO (Reuters) -Mali’s army clashed with northern Tuareg rebels who briefly seized control of a military camp in the town of Bourem on Tuesday, a rebel spokesman said, another sign of the unravelling of a 2015 peace accord that had kept fighting at bay.

An alliance called the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) has been fighting the army since August, triggered in part by the departure of a United Nations peacekeeping mission which for years had helped broker a fragile calm.

But clashes appear to be intensifying as both sides seek to control territory in areas recently vacated by the U.N. Bourem is just 90 km (55 miles) north of the strategic city of Gao.

“I confirm the CMA took control of the camp around 10 a.m. after very violent fighting,” said CMA spokesperson Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane.

He later told Reuters that the CMA had retreated and that the army held the town of Bourem, saying the rebel group’s objective had not been to stay.

Previous CMA strategy has been to attack military camps to take weapons, vehicles and ammunition, although Ramadane did not say if this had occurred, and it was not possible for Reuters to confirm independently what had happened.

Ramadane said there had been casualties but that he did not yet know the death toll.

Mali’s army spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

CMA was formed by semi-nomadic Tuareg people in Mali’s north, who have long complained of government neglect and sought autonomy for the desert region they call Azawad.

A Tuareg uprising in 2012 was taken over by Islamist groups that continue to carry out violent attacks on civilians and the army.

CMA signed up to a peace deal with the government and pro-government militia in 2015. But tensions have resurfaced since the military consolidated power in two coups in 2020 and 2021, teamed up with Russian military contractor Wagner Group, and kicked out French forces and U.N. peacekeepers.

Peace has never been easy – tensions have often arisen between northern armed groups and the army since 2015, and last year a coalition of groups pulled out of talks.

But until recently, large-scale fighting was rare.

Conflict between the army and the rebels could exacerbate an Islamist insurgency in Mali, where groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State control large swathes of territory.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; writing by Nellie Peyton; editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich)


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