Formerly-Allied Rebels Clash in Northern Mali’s Kidal

Is Azawad Heading Toward Civil War?

The split between the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), a Tuareg-secessionist group in northern Mali, and Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine has continued to escalate, with clashes breaking out today in the town of Kidal.

With Ansar Dine participating in the fighting, the NMLA ousted the Malian government from the northern half of the nation, with an eye toward creating the new nation of Azawad. The two sides have failed to agree on the creation of Azawad, however, with Ansar Dine trying to make it a Taliban-style Sharia state and NMLA looking for a more secular nation-state.

The governments in Western Africa have rejected the idea of an independent Azawad, and have used the existence of Ansar Dine as a way of arguing that the nation would be a “terror” threat.

In the end, NMLA may decide that the best way to distance themselves from that argument would be to fight Ansar Dine themselves, but with tribal loyalties strong on both sides, this could spark a full scale civil war across the region.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of