Bamako, Jan 22: A pro-government militia in Mali said that it had lost 14 fighters in an attack blamed on former rebels, three days after a suicide car bomber left more than 70 dead. Some 77 people were killed and 120 wounded in the suicide blast on Wednesday which targeted a camp in northern Gao housing former rebels and pro-government militia -- who are signatories to a 2015 peace accord struck with the government.
Hundreds of people gathered in the capital Bamako Saturday to pay their respects to victims of the attack on the last of three days of national mourning called by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The attack, Mali's worst in years, was claimed by the group of Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The attack occurred as former rebels from the Tuareg-led CMA movement prepared to go on a joint patrol with pro-government militia members under the terms of the peace deal. Despite hopes of unity in the wake of the blast, fresh clashes broke out Saturday between groups that have signed up to the agreement, according to the pro-government group GATIA (the Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group). A post near Tin-Assako in the northeastern Kidal region was attacked Saturday, GATIA secretary general Fahad Ag Almahoud said, accusing "elements of the CMA" -- referring to ex-rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA). "The toll was high -- there were 14 victims," he told AFP.
The information was confirmed by a Kidal resident reached by telephone, but the CMA did not immediately respond to the allegations. Mali's north fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels and jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.
The Islamists sidelined the rebels to take sole control. Although they were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013, implementation of the peace accord has been piecemeal with insurgents still active across large parts of the region.
The joint patrols, which also include regular Malian army troops, are supposed to help prepare for the reorganisation of the army. The United Nations has deployed 13,000 troops in Mali while France, the former colonial power, has an additional 4,000 soldiers stationed there. The UN Security Council agreed last week to consider setting up a sanctions regime for Mali to punish those who are hindering efforts to implement the 2015 peace accord.