Mali militants kill 2 soldiers, child - security sources

2015-04-29 17:46
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Bamako - Militants opened fire on troops at a national guard camp in northern Mali on Wednesday, killing two soldiers and a child, security sources told AFP.

The gunmen struck at 05:00 in the town of Goundam, 80km from the ancient city of Timbuktu, a Malian security source said.

"Two soldiers and a child were killed," the source told AFP.

The attack, which has not been claimed, comes a day after the head of MINUSMA, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, voiced concerns for the west African nation's fragile peace process.

On Monday, the pro-government Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group (GATIA) was accused of violating a ceasefire when it seized key rebel positions in the desert town of Menaka, while UN vehicles were attacked by rebels on Tuesday.

Brutal version of Islamic shariah

A MINUSMA source confirmed Wednesday's attack in Goundam, saying the militants appeared to have come from the east.

"They were in a car. They also stole a vehicle in the guard camp," the source said.

Mali was upended by a coup in 2012 which opened the door for Tuareg separatists to seize the towns and cities of the vast northern desert with the help of several Islamist groups.

The Tuareg were then sidelined by their one-time allies, extremists who imposed a brutal version of Islamic shariah in the region and destroyed historic buildings and artifacts in Timbuktu.

Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) took control of Goundam and destroyed shrines in the town of around 20 000, declaring them idolatrous.

Deeply divided

The Islamists pushed south toward Bamako, prompting France to deploy troops in January 2013 who drove them back into the country's mountains and vast desert, and Mali returned to democracy with the election in August of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The country remains deeply divided, however, with the impoverished north home predominantly to lighter-skinned Tuareg and Arab populations who accuse the sub-Saharan ethnic groups that live in the more prosperous south of marginalising them.

The recent violence comes amid assurances by the main Tuareg rebel alliance, known as the Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA), that it is committed to a deal to bring stability to Mali.

The government and a coalition of armed groups from the north known as the Platform have already signed the accord, brokered by Algeria under UN auspices over the past eight months.

But the CMA has been holding out, demanding an amendment guaranteeing political recognition for "Azawad", the name used by the Tuareg for the northern part of Mali.

MINUSMA chief Mongi Hamdi said on Tuesday he had met rebel leaders over the weekend in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott who "confirmed their intention to initial the agreement".

"Months of intense negotiations involving all parties to put an end to the Malian crisis could be threatened," he said after Monday's attack by GATIA.

The CMA said on Tuesday it condemned "the resumption of hostilities and the resumption of violence at a time when, with the international community and stakeholders, all efforts are being made to reach a peace agreement".

Read more on:    ibrahim boubacar keita  |  mali  |  west africa

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