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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fagaga Defects with His Unit to the Tuareg Rebels

Mali army colonel defects to growing Tuareg revolt

Sat 1 Sep 2007, 12:12 GMT

By Tiemoko Diallo
BAMAKO, Sept 1 (Reuters) - A Malian army colonel has deserted to join a Tuareg rebellion in the desert north, taking with him nearly 60 fighters, army sources said on Saturday. Colonel Assane Fagaga, from the rebel Democratic Alliance which signed a peace deal with the government in July, joined the insurgents on Thursday, the sources said.

Fagaga was supposed to have taken charge of a special military unit in the northern city of Kidal, under the terms of the peace deal.

"We have corroborated the desertion of Fagaga and seven other soldiers, including Captain Naka ag Aria," said a senior military source.

"To these, you must add 50 former Alliance fighters with whom Fagaga was supposed to form a special unit in Kidal."

The revolt against President Amadou Toumani Toure's government is currently led by Ibrahima Bahanga.

Bahanga's men have ambushed three military convoys in the last week in the desolate mountain region bordering Algeria and Niger, taking at least 45 soldiers prisoner and seizing vehicles and ammunition.

Six of the hostages taken in the latest attack on Wednesday were able to escape and rejoin their unit on Friday, the army source said. Nine other captives had been liberated on Wednesday by an army patrol.

The number of people killed by landmines in recent days rose to at least 13 after two civilians were killed on Friday, one in a truck transporting livestock to market and the other in a Toyota pickup, military sources said.

That came after at least 10 civilians were killed on Thursday when their vehicle hit a landmine planted by the Tuareg fighters as they pulled back following their raids in the Tin-Zaouatene border area. A soldier was also killed by another mine.

It was the first use of landmines in the former French colony since a Tuareg uprising in Mali and Niger in the 1990s, which won greater autonomy for the light-skinned nomadic people, who complain they are dominated by black governments in the south.

French state radio RFI reported on Saturday that Lyad Ag Ghaly, who formed a triumvirate with Bahanga and Fagaga during the previous uprising, would start negotiations with the rebels on Saturday to bring the latest violence to an end.

"If negotiations are taking place, then they are not official," said the military source.
Toure has called for a regional conference on security in the Sahel, which is also rife with banditry and contraband.

His counterpart in Niger, Mamadou Tandja, recently sent delegations to Algeria, Libya and Sudan to appeal for support in ending violence by Tuareg gunmen, which his government says is common criminality.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa

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