Fighting between pro-government militia and Tuareg rebels has continued for a second consecutive day in northern Mali, raising fears for a fraying peace agreement.
The Gatia militia group and a coalition of five separatist rebel factions, known as the Coordination of Movements for Azawad (CMA), clashed on Thursday in the town of Kidal with “heavy weapons, including mortars”, the UN Mission in Mali said in a statement on Friday.
A Kidal resident told the Reuters news agency that fighting had erupted again in the early hours of Friday.
“The sound (of gunfire) is more intense than yesterday,” the resident said, asking not to be named for fear of reprisals from the armed groups.
State of emergency
Mali’s north has been volatile since separatist rebel groups and later al-Qaeda associated fighters took control of the region in the wake of a military coup in 2012.
A peace agreement signed last year by the government, its militia allies and the rebels was intended to ease tensions in the north and allow the army to concentrate on fighting armed groups.
The CMA and the pro-government militia had peacefully shared control of Kidal since February, and signed a truce mediated by the government of neighbouring Niger several days before the fighting broke out.
There was no immediate information on what precisely caused the fighting in Kidal.
The latest bout of violence erupted on the same day Mali declared a 10-day state of emergency and a three-day national mourning period after 17 Malian soldiers were killed and 35 others wounded in an attack on a military base in the town of Nampala in central Mali.