Thursday, 26 January 2012

Desert rebels fight for free Azawad

DESERT rebels have launched a revolutionary war in the Sahara.

The fight for a free Azawad has turned into an armed conflict after brutal attacks on the population by the US-backed state of Mali.

On January 17 armed resistance fighters attacked military compounds in Menaka, Adaramboukare and Tessalit in the north of the African country.

Fighting continued for some time and there was a serious clash at Aguelhok.

Behind the insurrection was the Azawad National Liberation Movement (Mouvement National De Liberation de l'Azawad - MNLA), a group formed on October 16 last year.

The Mali state flooded the area with tanks, aircraft and troops and more fighting broke out on the morning of Thursday January 26.

The MNLA says the Malian army suffered heavy losses and was forced to retreat.

Photos published on Facebook show the wreckage of a burnt-out MIG-21 jet shot down by the resistance fighters.

Mossa Ag Attaher, spokesman for the MNLA, told French newspaper Le Monde that the aim of the struggle was to liberate Azawad from Malian colonialism.

He explained that Azawad consisted of three regions currently part of Mali - Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.

The MNLA was fighting for the aspirations of the Touareg people and also those of the Songhai, Peuls and Moors.

They had a right to choose their own form of government, to self-determination and, if they so desired, to independence, he said. 

The MNLA is the result of a fusion between the Mouvement National de l'Azawad (MNA), a group of young intellectuals and political activists, and the guerrillas of the former Alliance Touareg Niger Mali (ATNM).

These elements have now been joined by groups of former Touareg rebels who fled Mali in the 1990s to join the Libyan army and returned to Azawad, with plenty of weaponry, during the NATO war on the Gaddafi regime.

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