Mali: Tuareg rebels press offensive in wake of coup

Presumed Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) on March 29 launched an attack on Mali‘s northern city of Kidal, using shell and rockets as well as small arms—and following through on a promise made in the wake of the coup d’etat a week earlier. During an interview with VOA’s Francophone Africa service, MNLA second-in-command Karim ag Matafa said rebels plan to advance toward key cities of Kidal, Timbuktu, and Gao, and claim them as liberated territory. In Bamako, Mali’s capital, thousands of junta supporters took to the streets on March 28, backing the military putsch that forced President Amadou Toumani Toure into hiding. Many of the marchers were apparently soldiers and veterans who felt Toure was ineffective in countering the Tuareg insurgency. Pro-junta protesters took over the city’s main airstrip, forcing jets carrying West African presidents for a meeting with Mali’s new military rulers to turn back mid-flight. Leaders of the regional body ECOWAS organized the trip to pressure the junta to restore constitutional rule. Junta leaders meanwhile announced on state TV that they have drafted a new constitution, and pledged to hold elections—although they did not announce a date. The new constitution supposedly bars coup leaders from running for elected office. (Daily Star, Lebanon, This Day Live, Nigeria, March 30; EuroNews, Jurist, March 29; VOA, March 23)

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