Ex-allies Clash in Northern Mali as Crisis ‘Turns Tribal’
08 Jun 2012
An Islamist rebel mans a gun near Timbuktu in rebel-held northern Mali
Mali’s Tuareg rebels clashed overnight with their former Islamist allies, witnesses said Friday, after the two groups fell out over forming a breakaway state in the northern desert region they control.
The clash involving automatic weapons near the remote regional capital Kidal was the first between the rebel National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA) and the Islamist Ansar Dine, reports AFP.
Both groups are made up of Tuareg tribesmen from different various clans and the fighting has raised fears of widening chaos in the vast northern swathe of the country.
The rebel forces seized the region with little resistance from Malian government forces seizing the initiative after officers in the southern capital Bamako seized power in a March 22 coup.
The rival northern groups belong to different Tuareg tribes — Taghat Melet and Idnane for the MNLA and Ifora for Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) — and hold separate ideologies and objectives, observers say.
“Divisions are appearing within the armed Tuareg rebel groups,” said Malian journalist Tiegoum Boubeye Maiga.