Results tagged “Mali”
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France congratulated Mali on the smooth running of its first presidential election since a military coup in March 2012. The al Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) had threatened to target voters, election officials, and government and military sites. Although the vote count will not be complete until later this week, initial reports suggested that favorite Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is in the lead and may be able to avoid a runoff election.
Malians voted to elect a new president today, in the first elections since a military coup in March 2012 triggered an Islamist takeover of much of the northern part of the country. French, Malian, and UN troops are providing security for the election process. Turnout today was said to be high, and the process has been relatively calm.
Six hostages kidnapped in Tessalit yesterday, including the deputy mayor of Kidal and five Malian election workers, were released today near Tessalit. One of the hostages had managed to telephone Serval, the French force in Mali, which then pressured the Tuareg MNLA to ensure the hostages were freed.
At least four people were killed in the northern city of Kidal when Tuareg separatists attacked black Malian supporters of the government. Military officials also claimed that armed Tuaregs from Gao were involved in the violence, in which 40 civilians were injured, the central market was set on fire, and shops were looted. The unrest reportedly was sparked by rumors that the Malian military was sending more troops to Kidal to maintain order before national elections on July 28.
The French military signed a deal to protect the new UN peacekeeping force in Mali against terrorist attacks. The body of slain French hostage Philippe Verdon, who was kidnapped by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2011, has reportedly been found in northern Mali. AQIM announced in March that it had executed him in retaliation for the French intervention in Mali.
The government lifted the state of emergency that had been imposed since Jan. 12, the day after the start of the French intervention to recover territory seized by Islamists in the north. Authorities are scrambling to prepare for presidential elections on July 28; some 500,000 Malians are still displaced from the turmoil that began over a year ago.
Some 200 Malian soldiers arrived in the Tuareg stronghold of Kidal, under a peace deal in which the Tuareg MNLA agreed to remove all roadblocks, refrain from carrying weapons in public, and return to their barracks under the supervision of UN peacekeepers. MNLA supporters protested the soldiers' arrival in Kidal; a larger detachment is expected soon to bolster the small force.
Foreign Minister Coulibaly said elections scheduled for July 28 would proceed and that voter registration of Malian refugees in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania was underway. French soldiers are continuing to search for weapons and explosives left by jihadists in the mountainous Ifhogas region of northern Mali; "tons" have already been found, including Russian-made rockets.
Some 6,300 West African troops were "re-hatted" as the new United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, called MINUSMA; the force will grow to its full strength of 12,640 by December. France has slowed its withdrawal and will have between 3,000 and 3,500 troops in the country at the time of the nationwide election in late July. The government began distributing biometric voter cards for the July 28 election; 15 candidates are running for president.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in Mali, called MINUSMA, for July 1. The force will take over from and incorporate much of the existing UN-backed African force currently in Mali. The new UN force is expected to reach full capacity by Dec. 31, but presently faces critical shortages of special forces, intelligence, information operations, and helicopters. The peacekeeping activities of the new force will be backed by French counterterrorism operations.
A government mission arrived in Kidal to lay groundwork for the return of Malian security forces. The mission arrived a week after an agreement was signed with the separatist Tuareg MNLA to allow the return of government forces to the area.