Mali's ongoing conflict
The rebels are back
May 24th 2014, 6:56 by C.B. | BAMAKO
REBEL forces in the northern Mali city of Kidal claimed on May 22nd to have defeated government forces as well as African UN and French troops. Dozens have died and other towns may have fallen to the rebels as well or are endangered. A few days earlier the government had dispatched 2,000 barely-trained soldiers 1,500 km from Bamako, the capital, to the troubled region around Kidal following an earlier armed standoff during a visit by the prime minister. They met an about equal number of ethnic Tuareg rebels, who may have been aided by jihadists.
On May 21st the soldiers lobbed shells over the heads of African and French troops stationed at an international base. Still the rebels, who know Kidal better, captured its old French fort, allowing them to point their guns directly at the government camp. Within hours, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Turareg group involved in the 2012 uprising that triggered French intervention, controlled the city, grabbing government matérial in the process. The town of Menaka is said to have fallen next, and it is believed that Tessalit and Léré, among others, may be in rebel hands too.
Civilians have fled by the thousand. In Bamako, strangely, fingers were pointed not so much at the government as at the internationals who many had hoped would assist. During the exchange in Kidal, the peacekeepers and the French did not fire a shot: doing so would have been against their mandate, they said.
A Malian colonel reached by phone apparently near Kidal claimed that "morale is high" among his troops. After the fighting, parts of the army is said to have surrendered their guns and sought shelter in the international base. All sides, including the rebels, have called for a ceasefire.