Mali PM to visit restive north for first time since 2014

2018-03-21 11:09
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Bamako - Mali's premier said on Tuesday he will travel to cities in the restive north of the country this week, including ex-rebel-held Kidal, marking the first visit by a Bamako leader in four years.

"During my trip, I will go to Kidal where for nearly six years there has been no state administration," Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga told AFP.

In early 2012 Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda and other armed groups took control of Mali's desert north, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

Mali's government signed a peace agreement with some armed groups in June 2015, but the jihadists remain active, and large tracts of the west African country are lawless.

The Malian government has not set foot in Kidal since fighting broke out in May 2014 during a visit by then prime minister Moussa Mara, which ended with the army suffering a heavy defeat against the rebels.

Maiga said he intended to listen to the concerns of the locals in Kidal and learn about their needs, but he did not indicate whether the Touareg-led former rebel group that controls the city had set conditions for his visit.

The premier's tour will also include the northern cities of Gao, Tessalit and Timbuktu as well as towns in the centre of the country, where Maiga said "the deployment of the army and administration is having positive effects".

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But in recent months jihadists have ramped up their activities in central Mali, targeting domestic and foreign forces in violence once confined to the country's north.

Four United Nations peacekeepers were killed and four wounded in late February when a mine exploded under their vehicle in central Mali.

The UN peacekeeping mission, known by the acronym MINUSMA, currently has more than 13 000 military personnel and 1 900 police in Mali.

Read more on:    un  |  mali  |  west africa

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