News24

Mali's Tuareg rebels vow to fight on

2012-03-23 15:26

Bamako - Mali's Tuareg rebels vowed to press on with a campaign to seize the north as putschists faced a global backlash on Friday with Europe suspending aid and African security chiefs calling an emergency meeting.

The website of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) said it "will continue the offensive to dislodge the Malian army and its administration from all the towns of Azawad" - the name for their professed homeland in the northern triangle of the bow-tie shaped west African nation.

The Tuareg offensive sparked a coup on Thursday by soldiers angry at the government's handling of the conflict and President Amadou Toumani Toure was forced to flee.

"The military coup d'etat changes nothing for the MNLA, which is defending Azawad for its self-determination and independence," said a statement signed by spokesperson Bakaye Ag Hamed Ahamed.

It said the rebels had on Thursday seized the town of Anefis on the national highway linking Gao and Kidal - the main cities in the vast desert north.

The spokesman said the soldiers were rebelling after their "crushing defeat in Azawad."

The European Union's executive arm meanwhile said it was halting development operations temporarily as EU foreign ministers called for the return of civilian rule.

"Following yesterday's coup d'etat in Mali, I decided to suspend temporarily European Commission's development operations in the country until the situation clarifies," said EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The EU stressed that direct support to the population would continue as well as humanitarian aid. Mali is threatened with a food crisis due to drought.