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Lapse in cease-fire leaves 5 dead in Mali

May 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Insurgents attacked an army convoy in northern Mali Saturday, violating a cease-fire and sparking a fire fight that left five people dead, a military official and area residents said. It was the first major clash since the ethnic Tuareg rebels and the government signed a cease-fire a month ago. Libya had brokered that deal in an attempt to restore peace to a region that has been plagued by raids, kidnappings and clashes for more than a year.

On Saturday morning, a group of armed men attacked an army supply vehicle outside of the town of Tessalit, a regional army official said. He said four attackers and one soldier died in the fighting. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Mohamed Dicko, a trader in the northern town of Tessalit, said he heard what sounded like weapons fire outside of town in the morning and spoke to the returning troops, who said their supply convoy was set upon by a group of armed men. He did not have information on deaths or injuries.

Other residents of Tessalit confirmed his account.

Malian military spokesman Col. Abdoulaye Coulibaly said he could not yet confirm the attack. Representatives for Ibrahim Bahanga, a key rebel leader, could not be reached.

The April 3 cease-fire aimed to bring an end to such attacks. Under that pact, Mali's government agreed to decrease the number the number of soldiers in the north and Libya agreed to aid in the development of the region in return for peace.

Mali had signed a peace deal with a number of Tuareg groups last year to end an insurgency that reignited in 2006 after years of peace following a rebellion in the 1990s.

But Bahanga's faction continued to wage a low-level insurgency, claiming the agreement did not do enough to help the Tuareg minority, whose nomadic culture sets them apart from Mali's southern ethnic groups.

 

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