MALI: Western diplomats warn about “deterioration” in north

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Western diplomats in Mali have condemned a spate of attacks by armed militias in the north of the country.

“European Union member states, Switzerland, the United States and Canada represented in Bamako express their deep concern over the deterioration of the situation in northern Mali,” the embassies said in a statement.

“They resolutely condemn the taking of hostages and the utilisation of landmines that have already taken several victims and pose a risk to the civilian population in the region.”

The statement followed two separate incidents in northeastern Mali between 26 and 31 August, when a Malian government convoy was attacked and 11 people were killed in landmine explosions.

The incidents have all taken place in Sahel state, a desolate mountain region close to the border with Libya and Niger. The area is controlled by a rebel leader from the Touareg ethnic group who has been tied to militia attacks in the same region of Mali last year and who in the early 1990s claimed responsibility and pledged not to continue.

However, according to news reports, the Malian government has called on neighbouring Algeria to help resupply its northern military bases to cope with the situation, and to help mediate a return to calm.

Mali and Niger were rocked by Touareg rebel movements from 1990 until peace deals were signed in 1995. Touareg groups span the border region, which was largely calm since the peace agreements until this year when a Touareg-dominated group in northern Niger, the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), began attacking civilians and the army in northern Niger and laid landmines there. The MNJ has reportedly denied it is linked to the militias responsible for the attacks in Mali.

Source: IRIN
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