The desert town of Kidal in northern Mali is under siege, divided into hostile camps by rival Tuareg factions—the pro-government Platform coalition, led by the GATIA militia, and the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA). Jihadist insurgents meanwhile harass the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA in sporadic attacks from the desert. (Reuters, Oct. 17) Now there are signs that the jihadists are again trying to draw the separatist Tuarges into an alliance. On Oct. 9, renegade North African al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar issued an online statement eulogizing Sheikh ag-Aoussa, a CMA leader who was killed in an explosion in Kidal the day before. Ag Aoussa's car blew up as he was leaving a meeting at the town's MINUSMA compound. Authorities maintain the car hit a land mine, but CMA followers charge that Ag Aoussa was assassinated. (LWJ, Oct. 14)
Jihadists and basically secular Tuareg separatists were initally allied when they conquered Mali's desert north in April 2012, but shortly fell out. In the following months, the jihadists drove the separatist forces from the territory. Since the jihadists were themselves driven into the desert by a French-led multinational offensive in early 2013, the Tuareg movement has been divded as to whether to accept a government offer of limited autonomy for the northern region, known as Azawad.