Mali rebels say they have taken base vacated by UN peacekeepers

Mali’s northern Tuareg rebels said they have seized a base in Kidal vacated by the United Nations on Tuesday, potentially leading to a showdown in the strategic city where Mali’s army is hoping to wrest back control.

The UN mission, known as MINUSMA, has until Dec. 31 to pack up after Mali’s military junta ordered it to leave in June. Its withdrawal from other bases has already prompted fighting between Mali’s army and the rebels, who are vying for control of areas vacated by the peacekeepers.

Kidal is the eighth MINUSMA base to close in central and northern Mali and is one of the most important. It lies in a zone historically controlled by the rebels that Mali’s junta wants to take back.

MINUSMA confirmed its departure in a statement in which it said that it had destroyed equipment before leaving.

“The conditions for departure from all of these bases were extremely difficult,” it said.

The rebel movement, the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD) said in a statement it “now has control of areas abandoned by MINUSMA in Kidal.”

Security analysts said that fighting could now break out in Kidal, adding to insecurity in the West African country where Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State also operate.



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