Mali: Army and Separatist Rebels Clash in Fresh Fighting

Members of the Malian army (file photo).

Tuareg rebels in northern Mali claim to have seized another Malian army base, the fourth since August. The escalation of violence coincides with the ongoing withdrawal of the UN stabilization force from the country.

The Malian army said Sunday it was involved in battles with separatist rebels in north of the country.

It comes as Tuareg rebels claimed to have seized another military base from the military.

There has been 'intense fighting' against 'terrorists' in the Bamba area, which separatist rebels claim to have taken control of, according to army reports on social media.

The Co-ordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), an alliance of Tuareg-dominated groups, said they have taken control of the Bamba military base in the Gao region.

The military base is the fourth taken in a series of attacks carried out since August by the CMA. The attacks followed the departure of a UN peacekeeping mission that had helped maintain a fragile calm for years.

What is CMA fighting for?

The CMA have long complained of government neglect. They have sought autonomy or independence for the desert region they call Azawad.

Islamist groups hijacked a Tuareg uprising in 2012. They were later driven out of major towns by a French-led intervention in 2013.

The CMA signed a peace deal with the previous government and pro-government militias in 2015. But tensions have risen again since the military seized power in two coups in 2020 and 2021.

The junta also teamed up with the Russian military contractor Wagner Group and drove out French troops and UN peacekeepers.

Battle for the desert in the north of Mali

The rebel attack on Bamba follows those on military bases in Lere, Dioura and Bourem in recent weeks, and signals an intensification of clashes as both sides seek to control territory in Mali's central and northern deserts.

The escalation in violence coincides with the ongoing withdrawal of the UN stabilization force MINUSMA, which was pushed out by the ruling junta.

On Saturday, Tuareg-dominated separatist groups said they had inflicted heavy losses on the Malian military in an attack in the centre of the country, claiming to have killed 81 soldiers.

The Malian army has also come under attack from al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked insurgents. On 7 September, the military was attacked in Bamba in an operation claimed by the al-Qaeda-linked alliance, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM).

dh/lo (AFP, Reuters)

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