The Malian army and the Tuareg rebellion clashed again on Sunday November 12 in the Kidal region (north), a bastion of the separatists and a major sovereignty issue for the central state, towards which the army has been moving for several days, both camps said.

Each says they gained the advantage over the other during these clashes, generally located by different sources a few dozen kilometers from Kidal. No human, material or tactical assessment could be established independently.

The army, which moved towards Kidal at the end of the week, recorded “very significant progress” thanks to the commitment of air and land resources, she said on the networks social. She claimed to have “dispersed” the opposing forces.

The Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP), an alliance of predominantly Tuareg armed groups, highlighted on social networks that it had trapped Malian soldiers and mercenaries from the private Russian group Wagner, called to the rescue in 2021 by the ruling junta , on a plateau 25 kilometers from Kidal. “All [their] flanks are blocked,” he reported.

Home of independence insurgencies

The collection of information is complicated by the inability to access the field for reasons of insecurity and remoteness, among other factors. Separatist rebels cut off the telephone network in Kidal on Friday, possible anticipation of an army offensive.

A local elected official speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the subject reported to AFP rocket fire near Kidal. Another elected official said he saw army planes flying toward Kidal and soldiers leaving Anéfis, some 110 kilometers to the south, with heavy weapons on Sunday morning.

Fighting began on Saturday as the army closed in on Kidal for what appears to be the start of the battle for the strategic town. Operations “will continue until security is completely restored in the town of Kidal and its surroundings,” the army said on Sunday.

The several tens of thousands of inhabitants of Kidal, the historic center of independence insurgencies and a crossroads on the road to Algeria, had been expecting confrontation since the Tuareg rebellion, after rising in 2012 and agreeing to end fired in 2014, took up arms again in August.

Since August, northern Mali has been the scene of an escalation between the actors present (regular army, rebels, jihadists). The withdrawal of the UN mission (Minusma), pushed towards the exit by the junta, triggered a race for control of the territory, the central authorities demanding the restitution of the camps, the rebels opposing it and the jihadists trying to take advantage of it to strengthen their hold. The evacuation by Minusma of its Kidal camp, completed a few days ago, promised to be the most flammable.

The insubordination of Kidal and its region, where the army suffered humiliating defeats between 2012 and 2014, is a long-standing source of irritation in Bamako, including for the colonels who took power by force in 2020 and who have made the restoration of territorial sovereignty their mantra.