Malian Army in Control after Tuareg Attacks

The Malian army has taken control of three northern towns which were attacked by Tuareg rebels, leading to two days of fierce clashes, a military source said Friday.

"The Malian army is back in control in Menaka, Tessalit and Aguelhok. Reinforcements are in place," said a military source from regional army headquarters.

The Tuareg rebels had launched an offensive to seize several towns in the desert region where the nomadic tribe seeks autonomy.

They first attacked Menaka on Tuesday, and the army bombed their positions in a day of heavy fighting which the government said left several rebels and one soldier dead.

An official at the mayor's office in Menaka said Friday the army was now in control and the Tuareg had been seen moving toward the north-west of Mali.

On Wednesday fighting broke out in the towns of Aguelhok and Tessalit.

In Aguelhok rebels clashed with the army at the entrance to the town on Thursday night, but the army was now in control, said a medical source.

The defence ministry said 45 rebels and two soldiers were killed in the fighting in Aguelhok and Tessalit.

Mali's government said the attackers are members of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) formed in late 2011, and boosted by the return of heavily armed Tuareg rebels from Libya's conflict.

The Tuareg, a nomadic community, are demanding independence for their vast desert region, the Azawad, which stretches from the west to the north of Mali.

Mali and Niger experienced uprisings as the Tuareg fought for recognition of their identity and an independent state in the 1960s, 1990s and early 2000 with a resurgence between 2006 and 2009.

Source: Agence France Presse

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