Tag Archives: Kidal

New Malian Rebel Coalition Announced

After several days of talks in Burkina Faso, Mali’s National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), and the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) announced on 5 November 2013 that they had tentatively agreed to form a common negotiating committee and joint decision making body to put forward a common negotiating position in talks with the central government.  The merger is reported to be set to come into affect in forty-five days, giving time for the groups to consult with their membership and approve the agreement.

The announcement was viewed as an attempt to jump-start peace talks in Mali, which had been resumed in October, but were suspended again after rebels walked out.  Fighting has since resumed, primarily in and around the area of Kidal, the same town in which two French journalists were abducted from this past weekend.  The journalists were later killed.  Rebels in Mali’s north are primarily fighting for greater autonomy in the desert region where the government continues to exerts little control.

This is also not the first time Tuaregs and Arab groups have forged alliances in their battles with the central government.  In May 2012, it was reported that the MNLA had aligned itself with the Salafist group Ansar Dine to form the Council of the Islamic State of Azawad.  This group won notable victories in the latter half of 2012 prompting an international response, which was led by the French and supported by the United States.  Ansar Dine’s push for Sharia Law in Mali’s north had been a major obstacle between them and Tuareg groups prior to the agreement to form a coalition in 2012.  As the pair began to secure areas in Mali’s north, reported pushes to convert Tuareg tribesmen to their stricter brand of Islam caused divisions between the MNLA and Ansar Dine again.  It is unclear whether any common negotiating position would fully address this issue.

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Terrorism Arrests and Charges in Mali and Kenya

Reports are coming out today that suspects have been detained or charged in Mali over the killing of RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, and in Kenya relating to the Westgate shopping center attack.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who described the journalists’ killings as “cold and calculated assassinations,” declined to comment on whether suspects had been arrested, but reports by AFP and AP indicate that some number of individuals had been detained.  The arrests were reportedly made by French forces operating in the country and the suspects were transferred from the Kidal area, which remains disputed and a key element of peace negotiations between the government and Tuareg militants, to Gao, which is more firmly under government control.

Meanwhile, Kenya authorities have charged four men in connection with the Westgate shopping center attack.  Kenyan officials named them as Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah, Adnan Ibrahim, and Hussein Hassan and said that they were foreign nationals.  Their nationalities were not disclosed, but it is believed that they are ethnic Somalis.  One of the possible reasons that Kenyan authorities may not have disclosed the nationalities is that American citizens or permanent residents may be among them.  Recruiting by Al-Shabaab among the Somali diaspora in the United States has become a more pressing concern and reporting about the Westgate incident as it was happening suggested that Americans could have been among the attackers.