Rebel chief says war only option

Algiers - A Tuareg rebel chief said in remarks published on Sunday that war was the only option after the Malian government announced its forces had routed the rebels from a base in the north of the country.

"Today, our position is clear: the only alternative we have is reprisal and armed warfare," rebel chief Ibrahim Ag Bahanga said in an interview published in the Algerian daily El-Khabar.

His remarks came three days after the Mali announced its forces had killed at least 31 members of Ag Bahanga's group during an army offensive. A few days earlier Bamako announced the group's most important base had been destroyed.

Although both the Tuaregs and the Malian government signed a peace deal in 2006 in Algiers and another the following year, sporadic clashes have continued in the north.

Several rebel groups united under the umbrella of the Democratic Alliance for Change recently announced a return to the peace process after initially turning their backs on the Algiers deal.

However, Ag Bahanga's group still refuses to commit to the peace talks.

But the rebel chief claimed in the interview his group respected the Algiers deal "more than all the other Tuareg rebel groups of Mali" in the alliance. - AFP

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