Posts tagged Tuareg
Posts tagged Tuareg
Hard-line Islamists in northern Mali stoned a reportedly unmarried couple to death for adultery last Sunday. Analysts worry this is growing evidence of the rebel fighters’ avowed intention to impose strict Islamic law in the vast territory under their control.
Another version of the story put about by an al-Qaida-linked militant group is that the couple was married but engaging in extramarital affairs.
The Shariah killings in the remote desert town of Aguelhok have drawn outrage and condemnation. The human rights group Amnesty International called them “gruesome and horrific.”
The desecration of the tombs of Sufi Muslim saints by Islamist fighters in the fabled city of Timbuktu has also been condemned. The destruction has come to symbolize the twin crises in Mali. In a matter of weeks, this once apparently stable Sahara Desert nation imploded with a rebellion in the north, followed by a coup in the south.
A Rebellion Rises
Nomadic Tuareg secessionists launched the rebellion in January, demanding independence for what they call their Azawad homeland in the north.
Allies from other groups, including the regional al-Qaida franchise — known by its initials AQIM (al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) — fought alongside the Tuaregs.
They captured the three strategic towns in the north: Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. The crisis was compounded by a military coup March 22 in Mali’s capital, Bamako, by soldiers who accused the ousted president of not fighting the rebellion.
While Mali’s politicians and soldiers dithered and bickered in Bamako, the rebels rapidly consolidated their control over a vast and poorly policed zone the size of Texas, in mainly desert northern Mali.
Within weeks the shaky alliance between the turbaned Tuareg fighters and the Islamists collapsed, and Wahabbi jihadists, such as Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, took over.
Pictured: Islamist rebels of Ansar Dine near Timbuktu, in rebel-held northern Mali, during the release of a Swiss hostage on April 24.
Up to 5,000 troops could be deployed to Mali in coming days to combat escalating Islamic extremism, say West African nations
West African nations are considering imminent military intervention in Mali amid growing fears that the country is about to become what one expert has dubbed “the next Somalia”.
Up to 5,000 troops from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) could be deployed in the coming days to combat Islamic extremists linked to the terrorist group Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim). Fighting between Islamist factions and government troops has threatened to plunge Mali into chaos and undermine the security of the entire West African subregion.
“Deployment of troops in Mali is imminent,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, Ecowas director for external relations. “We are very concerned about what is happening in northern Mali, particularly with the carnage and killing, and barbaric acts that are going on in Timbuktu, and the destruction of heritage sites.
“We are preparing to deploy between 3,000 and 5,000 troops to fight against these terrorists,” Musah added. “The problem is that we are going to have to engage in urban warfare because they have occupied the major centres of northern cities, they are not wearing uniforms, it is going to be very difficult to separate them from the locals.”
The news follows months of fighting between Mali’s national army, secular Tuareg separatist rebels in the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and extremist groups. The Tuareg rebellion in the north – one of the causes of the military coup that toppled Mali’s civilian government in March – has become increasingly fractured, with the MNLA pitted against Aqim and Ansar Dine, factions that seek to impose Sharia law in Mali.
Residents in the northern town of Gao say Islamists have planted mines around the perimeter to keep the MNLA out. “It’s like a prison. People are scared,” Allouseini Mohamed said. “The militants warned on local radio that people should not wander outside the main roads. They said it was to prevent the Tuareg rebels from trying to attack the town. It’s a big problem because most people here are herders and cattle-breeders and they can’t go out to their fields anymore.”
Pictured: Mali unrest – Islamist rebels, pictured, and Tuareg fighters clashed last month in Gao, leaving at least 20 people dead. Photograph: Romaric Ollo Hien/AFP/Getty Images
The UN refugee agency says that a record 800,000 people were forced to flee across borders last year.
Many of them were displaced by conflicts in their home countries.
Mali is one example. More than 320,000 people have been forced from their homes since January because of fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels.
Many are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries - which are struggling to cope with the influx.
The situation is particularly precarious as the Sahel region is going through a major drought.
Al Jazeera’s Laura Kyle reports from Burkina Faso’s Mintao camp and May Welsh reports from Mali’s Timbuktu.
ECOWAS troops for Guinea-Bissau and Mali
Regional body to send troops to both West African states to help swiftly reinstate civilian rule after coups
West African leaders will send troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau to help both countries to return to civilian rule after military coups, and have threatened sanctions if junta leaders attempt to hold on to power.
The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, said in a statement after an emergency summit on Thursday that it would be sending troops to Mali to support the transitional government’s fight against rebels that control the country’s north.
“The heads of state and of government decided to take all the necessary measures in order to assist Mali in the re-establishment of its unity and of its territorial integrity,” the statement, released after the meeting in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, said.
Between 500 and 600 troops will also be sent immediately to Guinea-Bissau, it said.
Mutinying soldiers in Mali overthrew the government on March 22, while the army of Guinea-Bissau seized power and derailed presidential elections during a coup on April 12.
Paul Koffi Koffi, Ivory Coast’s deputy defence minister, told Associated Press news agency said that the West African regional bloc would be sending “at least 3,000 troops to Mali”.
The junta in Mali has already handed over power to an interim civilian government under the presidency of Dioncounda Traore as part of a deal brokered by ECOWAS.
Traore faces the twin challenges of holding elections and asserting control over northern parts of the country that are now controlled by Tuareg separatists.
The Tuareg fighters have declared independence in the region they refer to as Azawad. Their armed uprising to take control of that area involved an alliance with armed groups who are also calling for the imposition of Islamic law in the area.
Pictured: Dioncounda Traore, Mali’s interim president, will receive support to fight Tuareg rebels [AFP]
“Loyalist” soldiers move into Mali’s rebel-held north
(Reuters) - About 200 soldiers claiming to be government loyalists have moved back into northern Mali saying they will fight to take it back from Tuareg-led separatist and Islamist rebels that routed the army across the region three weeks ago.
The troop movement just inside Mali’s eastern border with Niger came as witnesses said gunmen in rebel-held Timbuktu, near the northwestern border with Mauritania, opened fire to disperse residents protesting against the occupation of their town.
It was the first reported sign of local resistance to rebels in Mali’s remote north, which experts say has become a safe haven for al Qaeda cells and smugglers.
Politicians and the military junta that ousted the president last month are not known to have drawn up a plan yet to wrest back control of the desert zone.
But a Reuters witness saw as many as 200 soldiers and dozens of vehicles under the command of Colonel El Hadj Gamou appear in the town of Lebezanga, near the border with Niger.
Gamou, a Tuareg, for weeks led Bamako’s efforts to repel rebels before saying earlier this month he had joined the rebel ranks, only to reappear in Niger last week to announce he was in fact ready to lead a counter-attack with 500 men.
Two military officers in the border region said forces under Gamou pushed on Saturday some 40 km (20 miles) further north towards Gao, which is in the hands of separatist MNLA rebels and Islamist rebels who want to impose sharia (Islamic law).
Pictured: People from northern Mali march against the seizure or their home region by Tuareg and Islamist rebels, in the capital Bamako, April 10, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Joe Penney
Mali’s new leader, Dioncounda Traore, has threatened a “total war” against separatist rebels in the north.
Mr Traore’s inauguration marks a return to civilian rule following last month’s coup in the West African state.
Mr Traore now has 40 days to organise elections - though correspondents say this deadline is unlikely to be met because of the situation in the north.
Since the coup, Tuareg and Islamist militants have taken control of much of the northern desert region.
The UN says there are continuing reports of civilians being killed, robbed, raped and forced to flee northern rebel-held areas.
“Reports also suggest that tensions between different ethnic groups are being stirred up, increasing the risk of sectarian violence,” the UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said in a statement.
Mali rebels declare independence in north as fears grow over extremist links
International community condemns announcement by Tuareg insurgents amid reports of links to al-Qaida’s regional arm
Tuareg rebels who swept across the deserts of northern Mali in the aftermath of a coup in the country’s capital have attempted to consolidate their power in the region, declaring an independent nation.
Insurgents from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) made the announcement on their website, claiming they were creating the new nation in line with the principles of international law and justice.
“We, the people of the Azawad [desert region] proclaim the irrevocable independence of the state of the Azawad starting from this day, Friday 6 April 2012,” the statement read.
The declaration drew immediate condemnation from the international community. The African Union condemned it as “null and void”, while France, the former colonial power in the area, said it “means nothing for us”.
Delegates from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), who initially said they would negotiate with the rebels, were reportedly working on plans for military intervention in northern Mali.
Britain responded to the continuing turmoil by withdrawing staff from its embassy in the capital Bamako, citing the “unstable and unpredictable situation”.
Growing concern about the situation comes amid reports that the rebel fighters, who last week took control of all the main towns in northern Mali, included people linked to the extremist Islamist faction Ansar Dine and al-Qaida’s North African branch known as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.
Pictured: Youngs Malians from the north take part in a protest against the occupation of the north by Tuareg rebel fighters. Photograph: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images
Rebels from the Tuareg ethnic group now control most of northern Mali, a territory as big as France on the edge of the Sahara desert.
A column of trucks loaded with Tuareg fighters rolled into the ancient desert town of Timbuktu on Sunday, taking over the positions abandoned by fleeing government soldiers.
They include an Islamist faction that wants to impose Shariah law throughout Mali and are believed to include elements with links to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
The Tuaregs are nomads, familiar in geography books as the desert warriors who cover their heads and faces with traditional indigo turbans and veils.
The disintegration of Mali could further destabilize a fragile region that is already simmering with political unrest, crime and religious fundamentalism.
It also raises the prospect that the Tuareg rebellion in Mali could spark similar uprisings in other countries that have big concentrations of Tuaregs, including Niger, Algeria and Libya.
Pictured: Tuareg rebels eat a meal last month near the Malian city of Timbuktu, which they recently captured. The rebels have taken control of northern Mali, raising concerns about stability in the broader region. Ferhat Bouda/DPA/Landov
Mali: UN warning over refugees fleeing Tuareg rebellion
The UN says it is stepping up help for refugees fleeing Mali amid the resurgence in fighting
The UN says the number of Malian refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries to escape fighting between Tuareg rebels and the military has doubled over the past 10 days.
More than 44,000 thousand people have crossed into Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Amnesty International described the fighting as the worst human rights crisis in northern Mali for 20 years.
The regional group Ecowas has condemned the Tuareg rebels for their offensive.
The Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) took up arms last month following the return of many Tuareg fighters from Libya, where they had fought alongside Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
The BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says the area affected by the fighting is now relatively calm.
Both sides claim to control the north-eastern oasis town of Tessalit, near the border with Algeria.
The resurgence in fighting follows two years of relative peace between the government and the Tuareg.
Tuareg rebels attack Mali town of Kidal
Red Cross says nearly 10,000 people have fled escalating battles between army and armed separatists in northern regions.
Ethnic Tuareg rebels have launched a fierce offensive against Mali’s security forces in a bid to seize the northern town of Kidal.
The attack on Saturday is further evidence that Tuareg rebels have significantly increased their attacks against government control in Mali.
Kidal is the latest and most significant town targeted by the fighters, who have gained ground in other northern areas following weeks of clashes with government forces.
The Tuareg rebels have been bolstered by an influx of fighters from Libya who joined their movement after the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled last year.