Clashes in Kidal as Mali army launches offensive

By Fatouma Harber, Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Heavy fighting has been reported from the northern Malian city of Kidal, where the army is said to have launched an operation to recover facilities captured by Tuareg rebels on Saturday

Heavy fighting has been reported from the northern Malian city of Kidal, where the army is said to have launched an operation to recover facilities captured by Tuareg rebels on Saturday

BAMAKO – Heavy fighting has been reported from the northern Malian city of Kidal, where the army is said to have launched an operation to recover facilities captured by Tuareg rebels on Saturday.

"We are very afraid. The walls are shaking because of the shelling," one local resident, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency by phone.

A military source told AA earlier that the army had launched the offensive with the aim of flushing out militants affiliated with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), who stormed the city on Sunday and kidnapped scores of local officials before releasing them the following day.

The Malian Defense Ministry said that at least 36 people had been killed and 87 injured during Saturday's clashes between the army and Tuareg rebels in the city.

Eight of the fatalities involved army troops while the rest belonged to "the aggressors," the ministry said in a statement carried by state television.

MNLA militants have seized several vital state buildings in the city, including the local government office and the local branch of the national radio.

The clashes erupted ahead of a planned visit to Kidal by Mali's new prime minister, Moussa Mara.

Tension erupted in Mali in 2012 following a failed coup and a Tuareg rebellion that ultimately allowed Al-Qaeda-linked groups to take over half of the country.

Former colonial power France, for its part, sent troops to the country and – with the help of Chadian and other African forces – flushed the Islamists from northern Mali's main cities.

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