f the result of an attempt to reach a truce between Ansar al-Din and the National Liberation Movement of the Azawad is still not clear, the two armed groups, sharing control of northern Mali (Tuareg for the Azawad), are said to have clashed in Kidal last night, one of the three great cities of the region together with Timbuktu and Gao according to reports from international press sources.
Considered to be very distant in their objectives and policies, the two groups tried to reach an agreement at the end of May during a summit held in Gao. While an agreement was achieved in principle, it sparked an internal debate and doubts within the MNLA, which repudiates the especially radical interpretation of Islam projected by Ansar al-Din, intent on establishing a state based on sharia.
Pending independent verification, in Kidal in fact, for days now, the situation has been tense and according to different sources, an unknown number of women took to the streets to protest against Ansar al-Din and its attempts to impose new social rules. The noted Tuareg woman Nina Intalaou Wallet, in a video posted on Internet, condemned the repression imposed by Ansar al-Din and invited women to protest in the streets.
The confusion in the North is made all the more confusing by statements made yesterday by the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou. In an interview with France 24, Issoufou has suggested that there is a presence of Afghan and Pakistani jihadists who are supposedly training new fighters into the army for a possible challenge against Bamako. He also reported the existence of a training camp in Gao managed by Nigerians of Boko Haram. Issoufou said he feared the transformation of the Sahel “in a new Afghanistan” and said that attempts to Islamist groups to settle in the territory Niger has so far been rejected. Issoufou in the interview, while describing it as an extreme option, it also has floated the idea of armed intervention – that would help the Niger – which should be authorized by the United Nations.