In the course of the withdrawal of the UN peacekeepers from the West African state of Mali, new tensions have arisen in the north of the country. The UN Mali Stabilization Mission (Minusma) said it had accelerated its withdrawal from the town of Ber "due to the deteriorating security situation".
One "calls on all parties concerned" not to complicate the operation. Minusma does not provide any further information. Ber is near the city of Timbuktu, around 360 kilometers from Gao, where around 850 German soldiers are still stationed. Minusma, which has been in the country since 2013, will be withdrawing from Mali by the end of the year upon request.
The Malian army, which has been working with mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group since the country's most recent military coup in 2021, wants to take over the bases of the UN blue helmets after the withdrawal. In northern Mali, this threatens to reignite an independence conflict with the nomadic Tuareg, who effectively control large parts of the region.
Conflict with tens of thousands dead
The Tuareg rebelled for independence in 2012 and temporarily made an alliance with Islamist terrorist groups. While the Islamist advance has grown into a conflict that has killed tens of thousands in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the Tuareg rebellion ended with a peace deal brokered by Algeria in 2015. Monitoring compliance was one of the tasks of the UN soldiers. The Tuareg accuse Mali's military government of no longer adhering to the agreement and of wanting to regain control of the region once Minusma has been withdrawn.
The group of former Tuareg rebel groups, CMA, announced on Saturday that one of their positions near Ber had been attacked by Malian military units and Wagner mercenaries, and called for a "general mobilization" of their fighters. Mali's army spoke on Saturday of a battle with "armed terrorist groups" near Ber, in which six soldiers were killed. The Islamist terrorist group JNIM, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, also claimed on Saturday that it had killed Malian soldiers in a fight near Ber. The connections between the events initially remained unclear.