Mali army, rebels head toward potentially decisive confrontation 0

Mali’s army is deploying towards a northern separatist rebel stronghold in a high-risk operation which could foreshadow a widescale confrontation and prove a turning point after a decade of conflict.

What’s happening on the ground?

A large Malian army convoy left the city of Gao on Monday headed towards the northern Kidal region.

It is reportedly to go first to the localities of Tessalit and Aguelhok north of the town of Kidal to take over camps being vacated by departing troops of the UN stabilisation force, MINUSMA.

The UN mission has been pushed out by the ruling junta and has been handing over its camps to Malian authorities.

The handover – which began with the camp at Ber in mid-August – is a prime factor in a recent resumption of hostilities by the separatists.

Against the backdrop of numerous armed groups vying for control, the separatists claim the UN sites should be returned to them.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) – an alliance of predominantly Tuareg groups seeking autonomy or independence from the Malian state – has carried out a series of attacks on army positions since the Ber operation.

Its fighters are now regrouping in the Kidal region.

Source: AP