Fighting erupts between rebels, government forces in Mali
Fighting has broken out between government forces and rebels in northern Mali, undermining the peace deal in the country.
Malian army sources said fighters from the Tuareg-led Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA) have attacked army posts in the town of Lere near the border with Mauritania.
“Groups of armed Tuareg rebels have been attacking us since 4:00 pm (1600 GMT). We are fighting back and defending our positions,” a Malian army colonel in the town said.
The CMA, however, announced on Tuesday that it had come under attack from a pro-government militia group in the town of Menaka, and that it had “no other choice than to use its right to exercise legitimate self-defense to protect civilians, its people and its positions.”
This is the first clash this year between government forces and the main Tuareg rebel alliance.
The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, had already expressed concern over the country’s lingering peace negotiations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the concerns on Wednesday by calling for an immediate stop to violence hours after armed forces killed two national guards and a child in northern Mali.
Ban Ki-moon called on both sides to stick to the peace process and “adhere to their obligations under the ceasefire agreements.”
The Malian government and the rebels signed a cease-fire agreement in May 2014, which was followed by a cessation of hostilities in February this year. They are expected to sign a peace agreement on May 15.
Unrest began in Mali after then President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The ousting of Toure was described by the coup leaders as a response to the government’s inability to contain the rebellion in the country’s north, where the rebels are fighting to gain autonomy.