Attack kills 5 soldiers in northern MaliTue, 19 Sep 2023 13:42:30 GMT

An attack on two military camps in northern Mali, claimed by armed rebel groups, killed five soldiers, while 11 others are missing, the army said late Monday.It was the latest attack against army positions in northern Mali, which, in addition to suffering frequent attacks by jihadists, has seen a resurgence of activity by separatist armed groups in recent weeks.The army said on social media that it had also lost a plane during the fighting in the town of Lere, in the Timbuktu Region of northern Mali.Around 30 assailants were “neutralised” in the attack on Sunday, which the army said was carried out by “terrorists”.The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), an alliance of armed groups dominated by Tuaregs who took up arms in 2012 seeking autonomy or independence, had already claimed responsibility for the attack.It also said it took control of two military camps in Lere and shot down an army plane.The attackers then either left, or were driven out by the army backed up by air force power, according to contradictory accounts from the two sides.Information provided by both camps is difficult to verify in the remote area.The CMA resumed its operations against the Malian army earlier this month, after months of tensions with the government. It had signed a peace agreement with the central state in 2015 intended to put an end to hostilities triggered by independence and Salafist insurgencies launched in 2012.- Insurgencies -The 2012 rebel insurrection paved the way for armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda to conquer most of the north, triggering a military intervention by France and plunging the Sahel into conflict that has left thousands dead.The jihadists groups have never stopped fighting the Malian state.In recent weeks, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated alliance Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) has claimed several actions against the army.The renewed military activity by the Tuareg-dominated separatists coincides with the ongoing withdrawal of the UN stabilisation mission MINUSMA, which is being pushed out by the junta after 10 years of deployment.The peacekeepers have been handing over their camps to Malian authorities, but the separatists believe they should be returned to their control.Mali’s ruling junta — which seized power after double coups in 2020 and 2021 — pushed out France’s anti-jihadist force in 2022 and the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA this year. It is widely believed to be working with the Russian paramilitary company Wagner, despite denying that.- Escalation in the north -MINUSMA transferred its Lere camp to the Malian army several years ago, long before being forced to leave the country.The escalation in the north has raised fears that a multidimensional security, political and humanitarian crisis could further deteriorate.Twenty-seven Malian political parties published an appeal “for peace and stability” on Monday. They said the pressure exerted by armed groups in the north “augurs a serious threat to the territorial integrity” of Mali, and accused the CMA of “irresponsible and criminal acts”, calling for a “negotiated solution”.Fahad Ag Almahmoud, a senior member in the armed group Gatia, attacked the ruling junta on social media, saying the armed groups were not trying to divide the country.”We are in a war that the junta in Bamako wants”, he said. “We will continue this war until all of Mali that has been taken hostage by the five colonels is liberated”.