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article imageMalian army moves north to retake town of Kidal

By Ken Hanly     May 13, 2013 in World
Bamako - Malian troops are headed for the northeastern town of Kidal to take control from Tuareg separatists. The French allowed the MNLA to run Kidal, as they supported the French operation.
The separatist, Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), had occupied most of northern Mali before being defeated by Islamist groups such as Ansar Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.
The French cooperation with the MNLA has led to anger in Mali, particularly from the central government and armed forces. Many in the Malian army want revenge for their defeat at the hands of the MNLA after the army coup last March.. Paperwork required to move vehicles in and out of the Kidal region and to pay tax are stamped with a "State of Azawad" seal and the logo of the MNLA. In the area the MNLA has in effect set up a parallel government.
A resident of the northern city of Gao said: "The MNLA has benefited from the intervention more than any other group. So now I have to ask, did France intervene to save Mali, or did they intervene to save the MNLA?” Now the Malian armed forces are headed to the area to ensure central government control before presidential and legislative elections scheduled for July.
Malian troops left Gao the biggest city in northern Mali a few days ago. The Defence Minister Yamoussa Camara said that the issue of MNLA control of Kidal would be resolved by May 15. The central government demanded that the MNLA lay down its arms but the group refused. However, it said it was open to negotiations with the government.
There are conflicting reports as to whether the Malian forces retook the town of Anefis 90km (55 miles) southwest of Kidal. Another Malian army column was headed for Menaka close to the Niger border, which is controlled by the MNLA. Chadian troops which had entered Kidal with the French have been redeployed to the north.
The central government in Bamako has insisted along with France that elections will go ahead in July even though the Tuareg issue is yet to be resolved and Islamist militants still are carrying out attacks in some areas of the north.
The UN Security Council has approved a 12,800 strong force for peacekeeping in Mali, starting on July first. While France is drawing down troops, it intends to keep 1,000 rapid reaction forces in Mali. The French want to quickly establish a government with some semblance of legitimacy to replace the interim government that is dominated by former coup leaders. However, a poorly organized election might make the situation even worse. Even before the election there could be conflict between the MNLA and the Malian army.
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