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Mali’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdoulaye Diop Addresses 78th UNGA

Mali’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdoulaye Diop Addresses 78th UNGA
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Mali’s minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdoulaye Diop on Saturday addressed the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Mali Rebel Alliance Claims Capture of Several Soldiers

FILE - Tuaregs fighters of the Coordination of Movements of the Azawad (CMA) sit as they gather near Kidal, northern Mali on September 28, 2016, where rival groups have clashed in recent weeks over the country's shaky peace deal.

DAKAR — An alliance of armed groups in northern Mali said it has taken several soldiers prisoner and killed a dozen others, while losing eight of its own fighters in a recent operation.

The alliance — which includes the Coordination of Azawad Movements, CMA, a coalition of separatist groups dominated by ethnic Tuaregs — also claimed it shot down two planes during the attack Sunday on two military camps.

Its account of events, which took place in the town of Lere in the Timbuktu region, diverged from that of the Malian army.

The army said five soldiers were killed and 11 others were missing. It admitted to having lost a plane, but said it had "neutralized" more than 30 assailants.

In a statement seen on social networks on Wednesday, the rebel groups reported that eight of their fighters had died and 12 were wounded, following three hours of fighting.

They said 35 soldiers were killed and dozens more injured. The pilot of one of the downed fighter jets had died, they added, while the second was not found.

"Six soldiers (were) taken prisoner, some of whom could soon be handed over to independent structures for health reasons," the statement, signed by the Permanent Strategic Framework, CSP, said.

FILE - In this Sunday, July, 28, 2013 file photo, a United Nations peacekeeper stands guard at the entrance to a polling station covered in separatist flags and graffiti supporting the creation of the independent state of Azawad, in Kidal, Mali.
FILE - In this Sunday, July, 28, 2013 file photo, a United Nations peacekeeper stands guard at the entrance to a polling station covered in separatist flags and graffiti supporting the creation of the independent state of Azawad, in Kidal, Mali.

It claimed they had taken "total control of the camps" Sunday before leaving them on Monday.

Information provided by both camps is difficult to verify in the remote area.

Sunday's operation was the latest attack against army positions in northern Mali, which, in addition to suffering frequent jihadist operations, has seen a resurgence of activity by separatist armed groups in recent weeks.

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 a 2012 rebel insurrection, which paved the way for armed groups linked to al-Qaida to conquer most of the north.

The insurgencies triggered a military intervention by France and plunged the Sahel into conflict that has left thousands dead.

The jihadists groups have never stopped fighting the Malian state.

In recent weeks, the al-Qaida-affiliated alliance Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) has claimed several attacks on the army.

Amid UN Withdrawal, Conflict in Northern Mali Resumes

FILE - A soldier of the United Nations mission to Mali MINUSMA standing guard near a UN vehicle after it drove over an explosive device near Kidal, northern Mali on July 16, 2016.

BAMAKO, MALI — As the U.N. mission to Mali withdraws from the northern part of the country, hostilities between the Malian army and Tuareg rebels have reignited and Islamist attacks have increased amid the chaos.

Residents say they are effectively stuck in a war zone as the north is cut off from the south via road, air and river after a deadly attack on a passenger boat and the suspension of flights by Mali’s only commercial airline.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements, or CMA, a coalition of Tuareg separatist groups who signed a peace agreement with the Malian government in 2015, declared itself at war with Mali this week.

Tuareg rebels launched an offensive in 2012 in northern Mali backed by Islamist militants. The rebels and militants eventually splintered, and Islamist forces seized control of northern Mali before the French army intervened and pushed them out of power in 2013.

An Islamist insurgency continues to ravage the north and center of the country.

On Tuesday, CMA rebels launched an attack on the Malian army in Bourem, a town in northern Mali.

People started to hear heavy weapons, loud shouting and vehicle motors around 9:15 a.m., a resident of Bourem who wished to remain anonymous for safety reason told VOA via a messaging app.

Before long, he said, he heard the shout of “Allahu Akbar.”

The Malian army retains control of the town, the resident said, but much of the population depends on farming to survive and cannot access their fields.

The CMA said in a statement that it temporarily took control of Bourem and killed 97 Malian soldiers. The Malian army said it lost 10 soldiers and “neutralized” 46 “terrorists” in the incident.

Fatouma Harber, a journalist and blogger from the northern city of Timbuktu, said Islamist forces have blockaded the city for weeks.

Militants attacked a passenger boat heading into Timbuktu last week, killing at least 49 people by official government counts, with residents claiming a higher death toll. Sky Mali, the only commercial airline in the country, stopped flights to Timbuktu last week amid frequent attacks on the airport.

Harber said that authorities need to stop their denial of the situation in Timbuktu and find a solution quickly. The city is being asphyxiated and the people are suffering, she said.

Fodié Tandjigora, a sociology professor at the University of Bamako and researcher on security in Mali for several organizations, told VOA that he anticipated increased tensions amid the withdrawal of the United Nations mission, known as MINUSMA.

Mali’s military government asked MINUSMA to leave the country after MINUSMA launched investigations into atrocities allegedly committed by the Malian army.

MINUSMA withdrew from its base in Ber last month, and CMA forces quickly attempted to take control.

The situation could be fixed with dialogue between the government and the CMA, Tandjigora said, but the CMA has refused because the MINUSMA camps have been transferred only to the Malian state.

MINUSMA states on its website that it is transferring camps only to state authorities.

Tandjigora also said there already are signs of CMA collaborating with Islamists as they did in 2012.

Mali's Ruling Junta Suspends Planned Independence Day Celebrations

FILE PHOTO: Col. Assimi Goita, leader of Malian military junta, looks on while he stands behind Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou during a photo opportunity after the ECOWAS consultative meeting in Accra, Ghana September 15, 2020.

BAMAKO — Mali's ruling junta has cancelled celebrations planned for next week to mark the anniversary of the country's independence, the council of ministers said, following a resumption of hostilities in the north.

The council of ministers also discussed the possible mobilization of reservists, they said late on Wednesday.

Following the decision, taken by junta leader Assimi Goita, to cancel the festivities, the anniversary will be "celebrated in sobriety and in the spirit of national revival," the council said in a statement.

Goita ordered the government to allocate the funds planned for the festivities to help the victims of a series of recent attacks and their families, it said.

Mali, which was in 2012 plunged into turmoil by independence and Salafist insurrections in the north, has this week seen a resumption of hostilities by predominantly Tuareg armed separatist groups.

On Tuesday, they launched an offensive against army positions in the garrison town of Bourem, which the army said it had repelled.

The two sides provided contradictory reports of events, but both reported dozens of deaths.

The renewed military activity by the Tuareg separatists has coincided with a succession of attacks attributed mainly to the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance Support Group for Islam and Muslims, GSIM.

It also coincides with the ongoing withdrawal of the United Nations stabilization mission MINUSMA, which is being pushed out by the junta after 10 years of deployment.

Several recent attacks claimed by GSIM have killed a number of soldiers, including in the town of Bamba on Sept. 7 and the city of Gao on Sept. 8.

An attack on a passenger boat on the Niger River, blamed on jihadists, left dozens of civilians dead last week.

Goita expressed his "deep distress" at the losses caused by "the savage and barbaric attack against the boat (and) the assaults on the camps in the towns of Bamba, Gao and Bourem," the council of ministers said.

It was his first public remarks on the boat attack.

Mali, a former French colony, became an independent republic on Sept. 22, 1960.