Tuareg Rebels Expelled from Northern Mali by MUJAO Islamist Forces

Alleged Touareg militants, seen driving near Timbuktu on May 7th.
Photo: flickr.com/Magharebia

After an increase in skirmishes in recent weeks, Tuesday marks a significant blow for the Tuareg rebels, who were violently pushed out of Menaka, the last base they held in northern Mali, leaving at least 100 soldiers and 12 civilians dead with untold numbers of refugees.  The Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), a radical Islamist group that gained power in Mali in a coup d’etat this March, has been chasing the rebellious Tuareg group known as the Movement National for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) northward for months.  In June, the MNLA also lost the key northern city of Gao; even so, they are vigilant and continue to attempt to regain the city.  Despite being pushed to the border of Mali, Moussa Ag Assarid, an MNLA spokesman, said they would not surrender.

Since the military overthrow in March, the Mujao have been causing international fear of the onset of Al-Qaida in the unstable region.  The Mujao have been accused by the MNLA of having ties with Al-Qaida through another rebel group, Al-Qaida of Maghreb Islamists (AQMI).  In order to hush up the MNLA, the Mujao has launched a counter-offensive against the more secular rebels.  It began with the attack of Gao in June, leaving the MNLA vulnerable and searching for a new front of their organization.  In a superficial gesture, the government extended themselves to include the MNLA with whom they have no intention of compromising.  Additionally, the past few months can be characterized by heavy recruiting from the Mujao, allotting funds to pay soldiers, and increasing proximity to the AQMI.

President François Hollande visited Mauritania, a neighbor to the West of Mali, Tuesday and publically ruled out “discussion with groups tied to terrorism.”   The President emphasized the role of France in the United Nations Security Council, where they have veto power, underlining France’s continued active role in the conflict.  He also praised the African member countries of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) for expediting military aid for planning and logistics to northern Mali.  The UNSC will not rule about an intervention until December.


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