As Islamists Lose Ground, Are Tuareg Secessionists Back?
French officials have reported that allied Chad soldiers have invaded and occupied Kidal, the “last” Mali city under rebel control. This marks one week since French troops announced that they had taken Kidal, the same “last city” of the rebels.
Interestingly, the losses of the Kidal don’t appear to have phased the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), the Tuareg secessionist fighters who themselves claimed to seize Kidal just days prior.
It is entirely unclear if this NMLA is the same as the NMLA that took over the northern half of Mali last year, before being ousted by the Islamist rebels, or if it simply took the name and some of the goals, but the movement says they have captured Menaka, another town northeast of “their stronghold of Kidal,” expanding their influence in the region.
Though this NMLA has expressed interest in negotiating with the French, they also seem to be expanding their influence, and with the Islamist rebels moving into caves and more straightforward insurgency, they may simply move in and become the new secessionist fighters.
France, for their part, seems to be ignoring NMLA and the growing number of roadside bombs, saying that they have killed several hundred people in their invasion and with their latest capture of Kidal they will likely be able to withdraw from Mali, at least partially, in March.
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