Tuareg fighters mercenaries of the former army of Gaddafi attacked Mali military camps 2001121

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Defense News - Mali

 
 
Friday, January 20, 2012, 10:11 AM
 
Tuareg fighters mercenaries of the former army of Gaddafi attacked Mali military camps.
At least 45 rebels and two government soldiers have died this week during fighting in nothern Mali, the country's military said. The battles ended several years of fragile peace in the country's northern desert, which borders Algeria and Mauritania, and appeared to confirm the Malian government's fear that nomadic Tuareg fighters once employed by the regime of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had returned.
     
At least 45 rebels and two government soldiers have died this week during fighting in nothern Mali, the country's military said. The battles ended several years of fragile peace in the country's northern desert, which borders Algeria and Mauritania, and appeared to confirm the Malian government's fear that nomadic Tuareg fighters once employed by the regime of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had returned.
Nomadic Tuareg rebels are ready to flush out the Malian army in several northern towns.
     

"Our armed forces have bravely beaten back the attacks of the former Libyan fighters and the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) rebels," the armed forces said in a statement on state media on Thursday, using the acronym of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.

But Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, a spokesman for the rebels, denied the government's account, telling the Reuters news agency that his fighters had killed around 30 to 40 soldiers.

The MNLA says it is fighting for independence for the traditional Tuareg homeland of Azawad, in the Sahara.

The MNLA launched an offensive to seize several northern towns, including Tessalit and Aguelhok. Both rebel and government forces claim to be in control of Aguelhoc. The MNLA spokesman said fighting was suspended in Tessalit to allow for the withdrawal of Algerian soldiers who had been helping Mali.

Fighting erupted in Aguelhoc and Tessalit on Wednesday morning, keeping residents indoors as gunfire was exchanged, a day after the army said it had fought off an attack in the town of Menaka by bombing rebel positions.

The return of the Tuareg fighters from Libya is the "nightmare scenario that regional leaders have been worrying and warning about ever since the fall of Gaddafi in Libya", said Al Jazeera's May Welsh reporting from neighbouring Niger.

"Lieutenant Oumar Toure, an army officer, said the military "would not allow anyone to meddle with Mali's sovereignty".

"The instructions are clear: Don't hurt civilians, but use all your energy to hunt down the criminals," he said.

Local government officials in Tessalit and Aguelhoc reported heavy weapons fire on Wednesday as the rebels attacked military camps in the two locations.

 

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