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Malian army begins deployment to Kidal in long-awaited display of govt control

The Malian army on Feb. 10, 2020 began deploying troops to the northern town of Kidal, according to Malian officials.
The Malian army on Feb. 10, 2020 began deploying troops to the northern town of Kidal, according to Malian officials. © Agne Coudurier, AFP
2 min

Malian troops have begun deploying to the key northern town of Kidal, a senior army official said Monday, returning to an area that has long been a symbol of the government's lack of control over the north.

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Malian soldiers returning to the restive northern town of Kidal is considered a key component in implementing the 2015 Algiers peace agreement, struck between the government in Bamako and some rebel groups.

Speaking to the AFP on condition of anonymity, the senior Malian army officials said soldiers had left the northern city of Gao en route to Kidal. "There is no problem for now," he said.

Rebels captured much of the West African state's north in 2012, including Kidal, triggering a war that has since been co-opted by jihadists and spread to central Mali, neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. 

The deployment came as the New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Malian authorities to investigate massacres by armed ethnic groups and Islamist militants in central Mali that killed more than 450 people, making 2019 the deadliest year in the region since the conflict began in 2012.

The conflict in the impoverished, landlocked nation has spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger even as French troops operating under Operation Barkhane have been deployed on an anti-insurgent mission in the Sahel.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the number of French troops in the Sahel would be increased from 4,500 to 5,100. The decision came at the end of a G5 Sahel in the southern French city of Pau, where Macron met with invited leaders of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad – countries that make up the G5 Sahel military grouping.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP) 

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