Gunmen Kill At Least 20 Civilians In Mali

Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa.
Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa.

 

Raiders in Mali killed at least 20 civilians in attacks on villages near the northern town of Gao over the weekend, while a landmine killed a UN peacekeeper in the troubled region.

“Criminal terrorists” on Saturday killed at least 20 civilians in several hamlets in the Anchawadj commune, a few dozen kilometres north of Gao, said a senior police officer who asked to remain anonymous.

A local official blamed the attacks on jihadists and put the death toll at 24, saying the killings occurred at Ebak, some 35 kilometres (23 miles) north of Gao, the region’s main town.

The official described a “general panic” in the area.

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The situation in Anchawadj was “very concerning,” and civilians were fleeing the area fearing further violence, he added.

Following the bloodshed on Saturday, a landmine killed a UN peacekeeper on Sunday as he was out on patrol further north in Kidal, the head of the UN’s MINUSMA Mali force, El Ghassim Wane, tweeted.

The spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the killing of the peacekeeper, who he said was from Guinea.

“Attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law,” added the spokesperson.

Separatists And Jihadists 

While there has been no official confirmation that the attacks were carried out by jihadist groups, fighters affiliated to either Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group are active in the region.

The region has become increasingly violent and unstable since Tuareg separatist rebels rose up against the government in 2012.

Jihadist fighters took advantage of their rebellion to launch their own offensive, threatening the capital Bamako in the south until a French-led force pushed them back in 2013.

The Tuareg separatists and the government agreed to a peace accord in 2015, but it has yet to be applied.

So now Mali’s weak, national government faces both separatist and jihadist insurgencies in the north of the country — a largely desert region that is all but devoid of state infrastructure.

“A good part of the Gao region and that of Menaka” are occupied by the jihadists, said the official in Gao. “The state must do something.”

Some of the rebel groups have also been fighting each other as they battle for influence and territory. Adding to the volatile mix are traffickers and other criminal groups.

Government stability meanwhile has been interrupted by military coups in August 2020 and May 2021.

Following his latest report into the area, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last month warned that instability in Mali and Burkina Faso were undermining attempts to stabilise the region.

The security situation in the Gao region had badly deteriorated in recent months, he said.

He also voiced concern over Menaka, the eastern region bordering Niger.

Initially captured by a Tuareg rebel group a decade ago, it was subsequently taken over by Islamist groups.

AFP

Malian Army Heads For Rebel-Held Northern Town of Kidal

Malian troops headed for the remote northeastern town of Kidal on Sunday ahead of a mid-May deadline set by the government to wrest it from the control of Tuareg separatist rebels.

French forces which swept Islamist insurgents from the far north of Mali have allowed the MNLA rebels to run Kidal in recent months but Mali’s government wants to reimpose its authority ahead of July presidential and legislative elections.

The votes are intended to seal Mali’s democratic transition in the wake of a March 2012 coup triggered by a Tuareg uprising, after which al Qaeda-linked Islamists seized control of the northern two-thirds of the landlocked West African country.

A column of Malian troops left Gao, the largest city of northern Mali, for Kidal earlier this week. Defence Minister Yamoussa Camara told parliament this month that the question of MNLA control over Kidal would be resolved by May 15.

The MNLA has rejected Bamako’s calls for it to lay down its weapons, saying it would resist any Malian attempts to retake Kidal, but has said it is open to political negotiations with the government.

One military source, who asked not to be identified, said army forces had established advanced positions on the road to the small town of Anefis, 90 km (55 miles) southwest of Kidal.

The MNLA dismissed an earlier report that Malian forces had entered Anefis and said their fighters remained in control of the town.

A second army column was heading for Menaka, a town in eastern Mali close to the Niger border which was taken by the MNLA and then the Islamists last year.

78 Killed in Mali Conflict

At least 78 people have been killed in a heavy fight, in a remote part of northern Mali including 13 soldiers and 65 Islamist insurgents.

Chadian military officials say Friday’s clash occurred in the Ifoghas Mountains, where many militants are believed to be hiding.

The Islamist rebels are believed to have retreated to the Ifoghas Mountains in the Kidal region near the border with Algeria after they were forced out from strategic towns in the north of the country.

Last month France led an operation to help oust Islamists who seized the vast northern region of Mali in 2012.

Thousands of soldiers from African countries have also been deployed in Mali to help put the situation under control.

French Troops Re-Claim Malian Town

French forces have now re-claimed the northern Malian town of Kidal, the last main stronghold of Islamist rebels in the region.

The militant Islamist fighters left the town, near the Algerian border, and are now believed to be hiding in the surrounding mountains.

Kidal was captured days after French and Malian forces retook the provincial capitals Gao and Timbuktu.

Haminy Maiga, a Kidal official, said the troops who arrived aboard four planes had met no resistance.

“The French arrived aboard four planes,” said, Mr Maiga, who heads the regional assembly.

“They took the airport and then entered the town, and there was no combat. The French are patrolling the town and two helicopters are patrolling overhead.”

Earlier, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a sandstorm had delayed the troops from leaving the airport and entering the town.