Clashes between army troopers, rebels leave 19 dead in Mali
At least 19 people have been killed in clashes between Tuareg rebels and units of government forces in northern Mali.
The Malian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that nine soldiers were killed after members of the Tuareg-led Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA) launched an attack against the town of Lere near the border with Mauritania the previous day.
The statement added that six more soldiers were wounded in the ambush and another six were taken hostage.
Malian troopers also killed ten Tuareg rebels and wounded 16 others in the clashes. They destroyed vehicles belonging to the rebels and recovered considerable amounts of weapons and ammunition following the fighting.
However, Tuareg rebel spokesman Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadan claimed that 20 Malian soldiers and three rebels had been killed in the skirmishes.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly has said Lere is under government control.
The northern half of Mali has witnessed several days of violence. The central government in Bamako has condemned the spiraling violence, saying it is a “deliberate attempt to collapse the peace process.”
In May 2014, Mali’s three main armed groups of the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUC) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) signed a ceasefire deal with the government.
The parties are due to clinch a peace agreement on May 15, but the recent uptick in hostilities has clouded prospects for the UN-brokered accord.
The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Mongi Hamdi, has called on all parties to “remain in their positions during [peace] negotiations and to refrain from all acts – direct and indirect – that could compromise prospects for peace.”
Chaos broke out in Mali after then President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup d’état in response to what was said to be the government’s inability to contain the rebellion in the north.