UN Condemns Tuareg Violence; New Town Under Rebel Control

Posted February 8th, 2012 at 9:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Tuareg rebels in northern Mali have seized a strategic border town, and the United Nations has urged an end to the fighting.

Rebel fighters said Wednesday they seized the town of Tinzawaten, and government forces confirmed they made a “strategic” retreat. The government troops withdrew across the border into Algeria.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is “deeply concerned” about the civilian casualties and large numbers of people displaced from the fighting. In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Ban called on the rebels to immediately end all attacks and to use talks with the government to resolve their grievances.

Tuareg rebels launched this new rebellion on January 17, clashing with government troops in several northern towns. The United Nations refugee agency says at least 22,000 people have fled the unrest in northern Mali.

Hundreds of ethnic Tuaregs recently returned to northern Mali from Libya, where they fought alongside troops loyal to ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The government has been holding talks in recent months in an effort to defuse rising tensions in the north.

Tuareg rebels say they are seeking independence from the southern-based government, which they say has ignored Mali's impoverished northern desert region.

Tuareg nomads are present throughout the Sahel region of Africa. Both Mali and Niger have battled Tuareg uprisings in the last decade.