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Army accuses Tuaregs of violating peace deal

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REUTERS

People light tyres on fire to protest the Malian army's entry into the far-northern, previously rebel-held town of Kidal, Mali.

Bamako - Mali's army has accused a Tuareg rebel group of breaching a peace accord in the flashpoint northeastern town of Kidal, by attacking civilians and soldiers.

“The MNLA has mobilised women and children in Kidal to throw stones at the black population, African (peacekeeping) troops and Malian soldiers,” army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Diarran Kone said late on Sunday, referring to the Tuareg separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

“It's a serious violation of the peace accord” signed on June 18 by the rebels and Mali's transitional government, he added.

Kone stated that when Malian soldiers entered the Tuareg-held town on Friday, “demonstrators, manipulated by the MNLA, wounded three African soldiers of MINUSMA (the UN stabilisation mission in Mali) and stoned three Malian army vehicles, including an ambulance.”

The spokesman urged “impartial forces” - meaning the French army, which intervened in Mali in January to quell an Islamist insurgency in the north, as well as the UN troops in Kidal - “to speak out” against the breach of the peace accord.

Kidal, a town prized by light-skinned ethnic Tuaregs, has been occupied by the MNLA since the end of January, but the rebels agreed as part of the ceasefire deal reached in Ouagadougou to let government troops in ahead of key presidential elections scheduled for July 28.

An African military source in Kidal told AFP that several dozen civilian refugees had gathered for protection at the military base in town, where Malian, French and African troops are assembled.

Residents “are being subjected to reprisals by armed Tuareg groups” for having expressed relief and joy when the first 150 Malian soldiers arrived in Kidal, the source said.

He expressed concern at the “climate of tension” in the town at a time when campaigning for the first round of the presidential poll was under way.

Witnesses said demonstrations for and against the presence of Malian troops have been taking place since Friday.

In the capital Bamako, presidential candidate Tiebile Drame, who helped negotiate the accord in Burkina Faso's capital, on Monday officially asked the Constitutional Court to postpone the election, his lawyer Hamidou Diabate told AFP.

Diabate said the law had been broken because an “electoral college (the total number of voters) cannot be convened as long as the voters' lists have not been established” across the national territory. He argued that no electoral lists have been drawn up for the 13 constituencies in Kidal.

Previous demands for the postponement of the poll have been rejected by the government. - AFP


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