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AFRICA NEWS
14 members of pro-govt militia killed in Mali attack
by Staff Writers
Bamako (AFP) Jan 22, 2017


I.Coast hit by fresh protests in wake of mutiny
Abidjan (AFP) Jan 23, 2017 - Angry protests erupted in several Ivory Coast cities on Monday, including in the economic capital Abidjan where retired soldiers barricaded a major highway as a teachers' strike kept schools closed.

The veterans threw up roadblocks on the main northbound highway in the morning, snarling traffic, as angry firemen blocked traffic to the east of the city.

Most of the city's secondary schools remained closed as teachers remained at home as part of a two-week civil service strike to demand better pay and pensions.

In the country's second city of Bouake hundreds of schoolchildren took to the streets, blocking traffic, in solidarity with the strikes.

"We urge our government to settle the teachers' demands so our classes can restart," said a student spokesman, Amadou Soto.

The strikes follow deadly protests across the country last week by security forces and troops that left four dead, shut down Abidjan port, one of Africa's biggest, and disrupted business in the world's top cocoa producer.

The angry troops appeared to be angling for a deal with the government along the lines of one struck with mutinous troops earlier this month that offered some soldiers large one-off lump sum payments.

Observers said Monday's protesters also appeared to be inspired by the mutineers.

A pro-government militia in Mali said that it had lost 14 fighters in an attack blamed on former rebels Saturday, three days after a suicide car bomber left more than 70 dead.

Some 77 people were killed and 120 wounded in the suicide blast Wednesday which targeted a camp in northern Gao housing former rebels and pro-government militia -- who are signatories to a 2015 peace accord struck with the government.

Hundreds of people gathered in the capital Bamako Saturday to pay their respects to victims of the attack on the last of three days of national mourning called by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The attack, Mali's worst in years, was claimed by the group of Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The attack occurred as former rebels from the Tuareg-led CMA movement prepared to go on a joint patrol with pro-government militia members under the terms of the peace deal.

Despite hopes of unity in the wake of the blast, fresh clashes broke out Saturday between groups that have signed up to the agreement, according to the pro-government group GATIA (the Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group).

A post near Tin-Assako in the northeastern Kidal region was attacked Saturday, GATIA secretary general Fahad Ag Almahoud said, accusing "elements of the CMA" -- referring to ex-rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).

"The toll was high -- there were 14 victims," he told AFP.

The information was confirmed by a Kidal resident reached by telephone, but the CMA did not immediately respond to the allegations.

Mali's north fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels and jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012. The Islamists sidelined the rebels to take sole control.

Although they were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013, implementation of the peace accord has been piecemeal with insurgents still active across large parts of the region.

The joint patrols, which also include regular Malian army troops, are supposed to help prepare for the reorganisation of the army.

The United Nations has deployed 13,000 troops in Mali while France, the former colonial power, has an additional 4,000 soldiers stationed there.

The UN Security Council agreed last week to consider setting up a sanctions regime for Mali to punish those who are hindering efforts to implement the 2015 peace accord.


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