Between 45 and 47 rebels and two soldiers were killed during the clashes in recent days in the northern town of Menaka, and Aguelhoc Tessalit, between the regular forces and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), a Touareg movement that aunched a military campaign against the central government.”
According to a press release from the Ministry of Defense, the largest number of victims were in Aguelhoc, where as many as 35 MNLA fighters were killed.
A MNLA leader spoke to MISNA by phone and denied the official version of events.
“There are no casualties among our own, while many regular soldiers were killed. We control Menaka and Adelhok”, said Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, challenging the official version, according to which cities are under government control.”
In Tessalit – the rebel spokesman adds – we noticed the presence of Algerian military barracks that we were about to attack and we asked that they leave. The situation there is not yet resolved.”
The MNLA is a recently formed rebel group, born two years ago. Its general secretary is Bidal Ag Cherif and the head of the armed forces is Mohamed Ag Najim. He enjoys the support of many Touareg who returned home after the war in Libya and the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
“While there was an ongoing attempt at dialogue with the government, Bamako sent massive military equipment, with tanks and helicopters,to our lands under the pretext of combating insecurity in the region. This is an occupation, we reject it. For this reason we decided to take up armed struggle for our independence,” explains to MISNA Moussa Ag (son of) Acharatoumane.
The representative states that the movement does not consider itself to be affected by the coming elections, the presidential election next April: “that which concerns Bamako does not affect our territory,” he says.
The Azawad territory, according to the rebel leader, stretches from Timbuktu to Gao and Kidal, the main town in the northeast of the country. It is mostly desert, and it is a territory that encompasses many natural resources, such as gas, uranium and oil, but also smuggling routes.
Whereas the MNLA representative argues that the movement has the support of many dignitaries and citizens of the region, this statement does not find much to back it up. On some forums there are reports that in northern Mali, there are many negative comments concerning the resumption of hostilities in the majority Touareg region