The Malian army is deploying towards a northern separatist rebel stronghold in the Kidal region in a high-risk operation which could foreshadow a major confrontation and become a turning point after a decade of conflict.
A large convoy of the Malian army left Gao on Monday (2 October) and was reportedly headed to the localities of Tessalit and Aguelhok, north of Kidal, with the aim of taking control of camps being vacated by departing troops of the the UN stabilization force (MINUSMA). The UN mission must leave the country on orders from the junta and has been handing over its camps to Malian authorities. MINUSMA’s departure is widely seen as a primary factor in the resumption of hostilities by the separatists. Against the backdrop of numerous armed groups vying for control, the separatists insist that the UN sites must return to their control.
The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), an alliance of predominantly Tuareg groups seeking autonomy or independence from the Malian state, has carried out a succession of operations from Ber against army positions and its fighters are now gathering in the Kidal region. The desert region of Kidal, a crucial stopover between Mali and Algeria, is the historic focus of independence rebellions dominated by Tuareg, a nomadic and marginalized population whose uprisings have shaken Mali since independence from France in 1960.
Source: The North Africa Post