Mali Rebels Claim Takeover of Vacated UN Base Near Strategic Town of Kidal

They occupied the camp immediately after it was vacated by the peacekeeping mission MINUSMA, a local official confirmed to AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP) – a Tuareg-dominated alliance of armed groups that recently relaunched a rebellion against the state – said in a statement Tuesday that it was “now taking control of the areas abandoned by MINUSMA in Kidal”.

A convoy of peacekeepers made up of more than a hundred vehicles had earlier left the camp in a column of more than a hundred vehicles, heading for Gao, another key town in the north about 330 kilometres (200 miles) away, MINUSMA officials told AFP.

It was the third and last camp to be evacuated by the mission in the Kidal region of Mali’s volatile north, which has been wracked by jihadist and separatist violence. The other two were at Tessalit and Aguelhok.

Tuareg stronghold

Even before the camp takeover, tensions had been expected to rise further in the Kidal region when the UN departed.

Questions will now be raised about whether the Malian army will try to regain control of the region – the stronghold of the Tuareg rebellion and a major sovereignty issue for Mali’s junta-led government.

The Kidal region has long been centre of insubordination and a launching point for independence rebellions, which have shaken Mali since independence.

The army suffered humiliating defeats between 2012 and 2014 in the region.

The separatist groups, which had agreed to a ceasefire and a peace deal with authorities in 2014 and 2015, have recently resumed hostilities in the lead-up to MINUSMA withdrawal.

They do not want the peacekeepers to hand over their camps to the Malian army.

Mali’s ruling junta, which seized power in 2020, in June ordered the peacekeepers out, proclaiming the “failure” of the UN mission.

While the final departure from Kidal was initially planned for the second half of November, a deterioration in security has pushed MINUSMA to accelerate its withdrawal from all bases, which has irritated the junta.

The army on October 2 dispatched a large convoy towards Kidal in anticipation of the UN’s departure. The column is believed to still be in Anefis, approximately 110 kilometres south of the town of Kidal.

It also sent reinforcements to Tessalit, about 200 kilometres away.

Kidal is the eighth camp that MINUSMA has left since August in northern and central Mali. Four remain.

Source : France 24

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