Mali’s military has taken control of the northern town of Kidal, marking the first time in almost a decade that the army has held the Tuareg insurgent bastion.
“This is a message from the president of the transition to the Malian people,” journalist Ibrahim Traore stated as he introduced the ORTM news broadcast. “Our armed and security forces seized Kidal today.” “Our mission is not finished.”
Mohamed Maouloud Ramadan, a rebel spokesperson located in neighboring Mauritania, acknowledged the Malian military’s presence in Kidal.
Soldiers from Mali’s army, aided by partners from Russian military contractor Wagner, have been engaging Tuareg insurgents for several days in an attempt to retake control of the town after UN forces left two weeks ago.
Separatist Tuareg rebels in the north have long wanted Azawad, an autonomous state. They drove the Malian military out of town in 2012, triggering a chain of events that destabilized the country.
Unhappy with how the Tuareg revolt was handled in 2012, mutinous troops ousted the country’s democratically elected government. In the midst of the mayhem, Islamic radicals quickly took control of important northern cities like Kidal, establishing their rigid version of Islamic law known as Shariah.
France sponsored a military intervention to remove the extremists from power in 2013, but they later regrouped and spent the following decade attacking Malian troops and UN soldiers.
Another military coup headed by transition president Col. Assimi Gota in 2020 strained relations with Mali’s foreign allies. Mali’s foreign minister authorized the departure of the United Nations peacekeeping operation known as MINUSMA, and soldiers left Kidal in early November.