Former rebel group leader killed by a mine explosion in northern Mali

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A leader of a former rebel group in northern Mali was killed on Saturday by a mine explosion in Kidal in the country’s north, military and ex-rebel sources said.

Cheikh Ag Aoussa’s car “was hit by a mine and he died on the spot” after he left the office of the UN’s MINUSMA mission, according to an African military source who is part of the deployment, reports BSS.

“He was attending a meeting, then as he went to go home he was accidentally killed,” the source added. The former rebel Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), which controls Kidal, confirmed his death and called for an “independent inquiry”.

“Among the theories, there is that of an attack and a car bombing,” CMA member Mohamed Ag Oussene told AFP.

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An official in Kidal also said Aoussa was killed by a mine. A Tuareg from the Ifoghas tribe, Aoussa was the number two in the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA), one of a myriad of armed groups in northern Mali.

The HCUA was formed mainly by dissident elements of al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine, one of the jihadist groups that occupied parts of northern Mali in 2012, throwing the country into chaos.

Aoussa had joined Ansar Dine as the rebellion broke out and served as right-hand man to its leader Iyad Ag Ghaly. He broke away in 2013 — just after the French-led intervention to halt the jihadists’ onslaught — to join a different group that would later become the HCUA.

Mali last year concluded a peace deal between the government, its armed proxies, and Tuareg-led rebels who have launched several uprisings since the 1960s. The deal’s implementation has been patchy. Kidal has been rocked by deadly fighting for control between armed groups which were party to the peace deal.

The fresh unrest has sparked international concern, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying in a report published this week that the pro-government groups and former rebels involved in the clashes should potentially face sanctions.

The report warned of serious failings in the UN’s mission in Mali as it loses vital equipment and faces a rising threat from militants.

The ongoing international military intervention that began in January 2013 has driven Islamist fighters away from the major urban centres they had briefly controlled, but large tracts of Mali are still not controlled by domestic or foreign troops.

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