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Amid UN mission’s withdrawal, significant clashes erupted in north between govt forces and former rebels for first time since 2015 peace agreement; coming weeks could see more violence and collapse of peace process.
MINUSMA withdrawal put 2015 peace deal under threat. Permanent Strategic Framework, which gathers northern armed groups signatory to 2015 Algiers peace agreement with Bamako, 1 Aug warned about “serious imminent risks” associated with handover to Malian army of UN mission (MINUSMA) camps in areas controlled by signatory armed groups. In following days, major clashes erupted between alliance of former rebel groups Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and military for first time since peace deal implementation. CMA alleged army and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 4 Aug attacked CMA-controlled border post in Foyta locality (Timbuktu region) near Mauritania, killing two CMA elements; govt forces and CMA 11-12 Aug also clashed near MINUSMA camp in Ber (also Timbuktu region), leaving unclear number dead. MINUSMA 13 Aug accelerated withdrawal from Ber camp in light of security situation, completing it same day, and 16 Aug also left Goundam camp (Timbuktu). CMA 28-29 Aug accused army of launching airstrikes on CMA positions near Anefis town in Kidal region.
Jihadist violence continued in centre and north. Islamic State Sahel Province 3 Aug attacked army-escorted convoy in Essailal locality, Menaka region (north), killing at least six soldiers. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 8 Aug imposed blockade on Timbuktu city, creating food and aid shortages, to oppose Malian army’s deployment in context of MINUSMA’s withdrawal. In Bandiagara region (centre), suspected JNIM elements 18 Aug raided Yarou village, killing 23 people.
In other important developments. Bamako and Ouagadougou 1 Aug warned West African regional bloc (ECOWAS) against any military intervention in Niger, saying it would amount to declaration of war against Mali and Burkina Faso. After Niger 6 Aug closed its airspace, French flag carrier Air France next day suspended all flights to and from Bamako (and Ouagadougou) citing “geopolitical situation in the Sahel”. In escalating row, France and Mali 7-9 Aug stopped issuing visas to each other’s nationals.
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