Tuareg rebels attacked an army post in Abeibara, near Mali's northeastern border with Algeria, killing at least 10 government soldiers. A Tuareg source told AFP the attack was launched to avenge the April 2008 death of rebel leader Barka Cheik.
Ten government soldiers were among 27 people killed Wednesday and 31 were injured after armed Tuareg rebels attacked army positions in Mali's extreme northeast, the defence ministry said.
A statement said an overnight attack on an army post at Abeibara had "left 10 government soldiers dead and six wounded while there were 17 deaths and 25 wounded on the assailants' side."
Abeibara lies 150 kilometres (95 miles) north of Kidal, the main town of the frontier region bordering Algeria.
Defence Minister Natie Pleah "presents in the name of the government condolences to the families of the dead," the statement said, adding that the "army will continue its mission of defending territorial integrity and ensuring security to citzens and their goods across the country."
A Tuareg source told AFP earlier that the attack was staged to avenge the death of rebel leader Barka Cheik, whose body was found in northern Mali in April.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Tuareg group led by Ibrahim Ag Bahanga -- behind the kidnappings of 33 Malian soldiers in recent months -- led the attack.
Despite a 2006 peace pact between the Malian government and the Tuareg rebels in the impoverished nation on the southern edge of the Sahara, there have been several attacks on army posts by armed Tuareg bands in recent weeks. Bamako is in negotiations with Ag Bahanga's group and according to observers here, several other Tuareg groups are launching attacks against the army in the hope of benefitting from these talks.
Mali's northern neighbour Algeria meanwhile is set to resume its mediation role in peace talks between the government and Tuareg rebels, Malian Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane said on Tuesday.
Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had announced his country's decision to resume the role, the Algerian government newspaper El-Moudjahid quoted Ouane as saying after talks with the president on Monday.
Algeria suspended its mediation efforts last month following criticism in the Malian press.
Attacks, kidnappings and armed clashes involving Tuareg rebels have increased rcently in the border region between the two countries.
The Tuareg are a nomadic people who have roamed the southern Sahara for centuries. They have staged uprisings over the years in both Mali and neighbouring Niger claiming autonomy for their traditional homeland.
After an uprising in May 2006, many of Mali's Tuaregs cut a deal with the government in July of that year with Algerian help and in exchange for aid to develop their territory.
One Tuareg faction led by Ag Bahanga refused to go along, and temporarily resumed fighting before signing a ceasefire and peace protocol in Tripoli last month.
But peace remains fragile while Tuareg groups continue harassing Mali troops and Ag Bahanga continues to hold the government troops prisoner until the parties implement the Tripoli peace plan.
Date created : 2008-05-22