Mali: Clashes between CMA and Plateforme in Kidal
In northern Mali, in the town of Kidal, violent clashes erupted in the afternoon on Thursday July 21, between the pro-Bamako militia GATIA and fighters from the CMA, an alliance consisting of several factions of former Tuareg rebels, those that were engaged in the clashes are said to be mainly from the HCUA faction within CMA. There are conflicting narratives on how the clashes erupted and who to blame. From the GATIA side it is said that their convoy and leader who also is a Brigadier-General in the Malian army (FAMa) El Hadj Ag Gamou were refused entry to the town at a HCUA-controlled checkpoint. CMA on the other hand claims that a GATIA convoy of armed vehicles deliberately opened fire on CMA positions in the town, which gave rise to deadly clashes that continued until nightfall. Helicopters hovered the skies of Kidal while the fighting took place, still not clear whether they belonged to Barkhane or MINUSMA. Residents locked themselves inside their homes, and some managed to find shelter at the MINUSMA base. Some reports state that the exchanges of gunfire started in the city center and then spread across the town, Mohamed Ag Ahmedou, Independent Journalist at Mondafrique & Anadolu Agency said that confrontations between the two movements also took place in Aguelhok, 105km north of Kidal. The clashes have been described as heavy involving mortars, possibly RPG launchers with gunfire and sporadic explosions heard across Kidal. The fighting seemed to have calm down after a storm and rain swept in over Kidal. The UN’s Peacekeeping mission in Mali issued a statement calling for an immediate cessation of the hostilities.
— MINUSMA (@UN_MINUSMA) July 21, 2016
The casualty toll following the clashes is still unclear, at least one young girl was killed and her sister injured in the crossfire. GATIA has via their facebook page confirmed two dead and three wounded within their ranks, while claiming to have killed four and wounded six in the ranks of CMA. No official numbers of casualties have been provided by CMA yet, although a source citing a CMA fighter said that there were several killed on both sides and that CMA seized arms and six technicals from GATIA. GATIA claimed in a statement that they had seized three quarters of the town of Kidal with CMA retreating to the Aliou neighbourhood, accumulating reports and sources indicate otherwise, stating that GATIA suffered losses and left Kidal in eastern direction shooting sporadically, although unconfirmed, it is possible that GATIA relocated to Takalote, southeast of Kidal. HCUA had according to the Independent Journalist Mohamed Ag Ahmedou mobilized a large contingent for the battle.
The fighting in Kidal comes during an episode of increased instability and violence in Mali and with weeks of tensions in Kidal. FAMa military barracks in Nampala, Mopti region were attacked on July 19, an attack that resulted in 17 killed and 35 wounded Malian soldiers, the attack was claimed by both the AQIM-linked jihadist group Ansar Dine and a recently formed Peul militia, ANSIPRJ or ‘Alliance Nationale pour la Souvegarde de l’Identité Peule et la Restauration de la Justice’.
— MENASTREAM (@MENASTREAM) July 19, 2016
The amounting tensions in Kidal between CMA and GATIA stems from the two factions’ desire to control the town, tensions that Niger as a mediator attempted to lower by bringing both parts to the table. The meeting that took place in Niamey resulted in the signing of a declaration on Sunday July 17 that outlined a framework for power-sharing between the two groups in Kidal.
— MENASTREAM (@MENASTREAM) July 17, 2016
On July 19 an incident occurred that has been described as an altercation involving HCUA and GATIA fighters that turned lethal, killing one on each side and injuring another.
— MENASTREAM (@MENASTREAM) July 20, 2016
An attack that targeted a CMA checkpoint in Timboukré as late as July 20, resulted in the death of three CMA fighters who also were decapitated, this incident can explain a possible sense of vulnerability within the ranks of CMA, lower tolerance for hostilities and provocations.
— MENASTREAM (@MENASTREAM) July 22, 2016
The fighting between CMA and GATIA reportedly resumed around 5h30m local time west of Kidal and continued until around 10h00. MLNA official and member of CMA, Mossa Ag Attaher later announced that the clashes had ended with Kidal being under total control of the CMA. The casualty toll following the clashes had reached 35 according to a CMA official, and as stated earlier two innocent girls where hit by stray bullets, reportedly sisters leaving one of the mdead and the other wounded. The little brother of MLNA SG Bilal Ag Acherif reportedly died in the fighting according to a journalist Baba Ahmed, citing a source close to MLNA.
In Tabankort an ally of GATIA, namely MAA2 also part of the pro-Bamako Plateforme alliance, distanced itself from GATIA condemning their actions and stating that the faction must assume its responsibility since it signed an agreement in Niamey which now has been violated. According to a CMA official the group lost 4 fighters while GATIA lost 30, additionally, it is reported that some GATIA fighters have been taken prisoners.