Tuaregs fighters of the Coordination of Movements of the Azawad (CMA) stand with weapon near pick up trucks with machine gun near Kidal, northern Mali on September 28, 2016, where rival groups have clashed in recent weeks over the country’s shaky peace deal.
The most recent fighting — between pro-government group GATIA and ex-rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) — left around a dozen fighters dead on September 16 near the northeastern city. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

Fighting rages between army and rebels in Mali

Fighting resumed Sunday between the Malian army and Tuareg separatist and rebel groups in the country’s northern region, military officers and elected officials said.

Since seizing power in a coup in 2020, the African country’s military rulers have made a priority of re-establishing sovereignty over all regions and Kidal could become a key battleground. One military officer told AFP that the Mali army has “resumed operations on the ground to secure the entire national territory.”

A local elected official, also speaking under the condition of anonymity, said that “fighting has resumed near Kidal” and locals could “hear sounds of rockets.”

Army planes were seen flying towards Kidal on Sunday, another official said. Fighting had begun a day earlier as the army closed in on the area, after announcing Thursday that it was starting “strategic movements aimed at securing and eradicating all terrorist threats in the Kidal region.”

A large military convoy stationed since early October at Anefis, some 110 kilometers to the south, set off towards Kidal. Military, political and rebel sources all reported the clashes. But details such as a casualty toll or tactics involved could not be confirmed independently in the remote region.

The rebels in Kidal cut telephone links on Friday in anticipation of an army offensive following several days of airstrikes. Some 25,000 people live in the Kidal desert area, a key site on the road to Algeria and a historic hotbed of insurrection.

Residents have been braced for a confrontation since the Tuareg rebellion took up arms again in August. The Tuaregs previously launched an insurgency in 2012, inflicting humiliating defeats on the army before agreeing to a ceasefire in 2014 and a peace deal in 2015.

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