Protesters Clash with Rebel Rulers in Northern Mali Town

Posted June 26th, 2012 at 11:40 am (UTC-5)
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Witnesses in northern Mali report a clash between protesters and one of the militant groups that controls the area's major cities.

A youth leader in the city of Gao tells VOA that members of the Tuareg separatist group MNLA fired on about 200 protesters who had marched to the group's local headquarters Tuesday.

He says one person was killed and 12 others were injured, two of them seriously.

The protest was sparked by accusations that the MNLA killed an elected official, Idrissa Oumarou, on Monday after he resisted an attempt to steal his motorcycle. Tuesday's march was preceded by Oumarou's funeral.

In interviews with VOA last week, residents of Gao expressed resentment toward MNLA and Islamist groups that seized control of northern Mali in early April after a coup in the capital, Bamako.

Several people said they could not forgive the militants for looting and destroying buildings in the town.

A VOA reporter who visited Gao, Idriss Fall, said that life in the city of 85,000 is difficult, with food, water and electricity all scarce.

The MNLA (Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) has launched an effort to reconcile with locals, holding meetings with youths and broadcasting a radio appeal for forgiveness.

The armed groups in Mali's north are bracing for possible counterattacks from the interim Malian government or newly-formed counter-insurgency group, known as the Northern Mali Liberation Front.