Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) announced Nov. 29 that they are ending their ceasefire with the Malian government, which has held since June. The statement comes a day after clashes between Malian troops and Tuareg protesters who prevented a visit by Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly to the rebel-held town of Kidal. The central government said soldiers at the airport had been attacked with stones and gunfire by "uncontrollable elements," and had fired warning shots. But the MNLA said troops had fired directly at a crowd that included women and children, leaving several wounded. MNLA vice president Mahamadou Djeri Maiga told the AFP: "What happened is a declaration of war. We will deliver this war. Wherever we find the Malian army we will launch the assault against them. It will be automatic. The warnings are over." (BBC News, Nov. 29)
Gen. Amadou Haya Sanogo, leader of the March 2012 coup that plunged Mali into civil war, was arrested Nov. 27 on charges of murder, complicity to murder, assassination and kidnapping. According to one of the arresting soldiers, Sanogo had repeatedly ignored summons by Mali's Ministry of Justice. Twenty-five armed soldiers arrested Sanogo in his home in Bamako and took him to appear before a judge, after which he remained in custody.
French troops last week launched a new offensive against Islamist rebels in northern Mali—raised questions about whether Paris will in fact reduce the number of its forces in the African country from 3,000 to 1,200 by year's end as planned. Islamist militants have been struggling to regain control of the contested area, known as the Niger Loop, which includes the cities of Gao and Timbuktu. French general staff spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said the new campaign, dubbed "Operation Hydra," was undertaken joinlty with Malian army forces and troops from MINUSMA, the UN force for the country. "It is the first time we have seen forces of significant size working together," Jaron said. (NYT, IBT, Al Jazeera, Oct. 24)
A visit by a delegation of cabinet ministers from Mali's central government to Kidal, the northern town held by Tuareg rebels of the MNLA, sparked a mini-intifada Sept. 17. Tuareg youth attempted to block the delegation's plane from landing and then hurled stones at the ministerial convoy as it headed to the town. "Peacekeepers" from the UN Mission for Mali (MINUSMA) used tear-gas to disperse the protesters. Two bombs reportedly exploded in Kidal during the visit, although apparently causing no casualties.
At a ceremony in Bamako July 1, UN troops formally took over the "peacekeeping" mission in Mali, with authority transferred from the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). But most of the soldiers actually remained the same, with AFISMA troops merely donning the blue beret of UN peacekeeping forces. In April, the Security Council approved the 12,600-strong MINUSMA to take over from the African-led force, with authorization "to use all necessary means" to carry out humanitarian and security-related missions and protect civilians, UN staff and cultural artifacts. The new mission begins as French forces continue their phased withdrawal. But France, Mali's former colonial master, is to keep up to 1,000 troops in the country. (Al Jazeera, UN News Centre, July 1)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said May 28 during a stop in Niger that the attackers who carried out last week's double suicide bombings on a military camp and uranium mine likely came from southern Libya—indicating that jihadist forces driven from north Mali have taken refuge across borders in the lawless spaces of the Sahara. He also said they had inside help, saying: "The terrorist groups benefited from a certain level of complicity." Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou's also said the jihadists infiltrated from Libya.
Talks will resume soon between the Malian government and Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), according to the foreign ministry of Burkina Faso, which has been brokering the dialogue. Earlier this month, a Malian military spokesperson said the country was in the final stages of preparation for an assault on Kidal, the northern town that is held by the MNLA. The last negotiations were back in December before the French-led military offensive to remove the fundamentalist militias who had battled with the MNLA for control of Mali's north. The MNLA supports plans for national elections for an interim president on June 28, but says it will not allow army troops into Kidal for the vote. Said MNLA envoy Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh: "We suggest that security during the vote be guaranteed by UN troops... because no Azawad citizen can elect the future president of Mali under the protection of Mali's terrorist army." (AFP, May 24; Al Jazeera, May 20)