Mali: Tuareg ceasefire breaks down

Mali is sending army reinforcements to the desert North after attacks by Tuareg guerillas on several army posts left one dead May 6. A military base in Diabaly was attacked by rebels who made off with army supplies. (AFP, May 6) The new attacks began May 3 when Mali’s army said it killed four Tuareg rebels after they attacked a military convoy. Authorities called it the first clash since an April 3 ceasefire brokered in Libya. (Reuters, May 3) In late April, Niger’s parliament passed a tough new anti-terrorism law in response to the insurgency. (Reuters Africa, April 20)

The Missionary News Service Agency reported the same day the ceasefire was signed in Tripoli that Mali’s air force bombed positions in the north, backing a ground operation launched against the rebel forces of Ibrahim Ag Bahanga just south of the town of Kidal. Algeria’s El Watan newspaper reported that six soldiers and one rebel were killed in the fighting. Kidal was also the scene of fighting March 20, when the Tuareg chief Ag Bahanga and allied Northern Mali Tuareg Alliance for Change (ATNMC) resumed its battle against the government. (MISNA, April 3)

The newsletter of the Tuareg musical group Tinariwen (itself made up of former guerilla fighters) said Ag Bahanga’s ATNMC attacked an army column on the road north from Kidal to the rebel stronghold of Tinzaouatene on March 20, killing at least eight soldiers, wounding 20 more and taking up to thirty army personnel hostage, including several senior commanders. It was the worse casualty toll since the end of the last Tuareg rebellion in 1992.

Bahanga’s ATNMC broke away from the Alliance Democratique du 23 mai pour le Changement (ADC) at the end of last year, impatient with the slow progress of development and implementation of the Algiers Accords, signed in the summer of 2006 by the ADC and the Malian government. The April 11 assassination in Kidal of a respected Tuareg soldier and ADC adherant M’Barka Ag Cheick and his adjutant raised tensions the small desert town. No one has claimed responsibility for the slaying. (Tinariwen News, May 2008)

See our last posts on the Sahel and the Tuareg.