Military movements break Mali truce before talks
12 July 2014, 08:51
Bamako - Armed groups in northern Mali were on the move today in violation of a truce ahead of peace talks next week, the government said, amid reports of renewed fighting.
"Corroborating information details military gatherings and even advances by troops from armed groups in certain locations in the north," a government statement released by Mali's state-owned news agency said, without giving details.
"Such acts are unacceptable because they violate the ceasefire agreement of May 24" between the government of the large west African country and armed groups, the statement added.
The truce was brokered after fighting in the northeastern desert town of Kidal between the army and militants, who have for decades laid claim to the Saharan desert territory they know as "Azawad".
Ethnic Tuareg rebels who claim the Azawad region for their home launched an armed campaign against Mali's government in January 2012. Islamist movements linked to al-Qaeda also rose up and turned on the Tuaregs, prompting French military intervention in January 2013 to help Mali's troops and push back the jihadists.
The mobilisations in the north come "a few days ahead of the opening of inclusive talks planned in Algiers from July 16," according to Bamako.
The fresh talks were announced late Wednesday by Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra during a visit to Burkina Faso. Both countries share borders with Mali and are mediating in the conflict.
Fighting broke out on Friday between two of the movements due to participate in the dicussions, both forces said.
The Tuareg rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) was attacking "our positions", according to Mohamed Ould Mataly, who represents one wing of the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) and has a seat in Mali's parliament.
"The clashes are taking place between Anefis and Tabankor," two northeastern towns, said Mohamed Ag Rhissa, speaking for the MNLA in Kidal.
An African military source in the UN mission in northern Mali confirmed that "clashes are taking place mainly between armed groups who should soon take part in the discussions in Algiers".