Clashes between Mali army, rebels leave 19 dead: defence ministry

maliTen militants and nine soldiers have died in clashes between the Malian army and a Tuareg rebel alliance, the defence ministry said on Thursday, raising fears for the country’s fragile peace process.

The announcement came a day after fighters from the Tuareg-led Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA) ambushed military positions in the central town of Lere, near the Mauritanian border.

“The provisional toll of the clashes is: armed forces — nine dead, six injured, six hostages, one damaged vehicle. Enemy side: 10 dead and 16 injured, two vehicles destroyed; one vehicle, arms and ammunition recovered,” the ministry said in a statement.

Defence Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly said Lere was under control and “encourages the armed forces to fulfil their duty with determination to the service of our country”, the statement said.

A foreign security source confirmed the fighting had stopped late on Wednesday, adding there was “no winner, no loser”, with the rebels controlling the south of the town and the army dug into their positions elsewhere.

Wednesday’s attack came on a day of violence which started when unidentified militants opened fire on troops in the former Islamist stronghold of Goundam, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Timbuktu, killing two soldiers and a child.

The CMA warned on Tuesday it would assert its right to “exercise legitimate self-defence” after coming under attack from a pro-government militia.

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