Rebels in Mali say they've captured another military base in the north as violence intensifies

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Tuareg rebels in Mali said Monday they captured another military base from the army in the country's north as fighting intensifies.

Attaye Ag Mohamed, spokesman for the Azawad armed movement, told The Associated Press that the rebels seized the military base in the city of Bamba between Timbuktu and Gao on Sunday, as part of a broader strategy to weaken the Malian army.

Mali’s ruling junta didn’t comment on whether the base was taken but posted a statement Sunday on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, saying there was intense fighting between its forces and “terrorists” in Bamba and that details would follow. Mali’s government refers to the Taureg rebels as terrorists.

Mohamed said the rebels also had stolen 11 vehicles. Taking the position in Bamba was aimed at depriving the Malian army of a base it can withdraw to as it seeks to advance on the Tuareg stronghold of Kidal in the north, he said.

The violence is the latest in a string of increasing attacks by the rebels, known as the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD). Analysts say it signals a breakdown of a 2015 peace agreement signed between the government and ethnic Tuareg rebels who once drove security forces out of northern Mali as they sought to create the state of Azawad there.

The base would be the fourth taken by rebels since August, following other ones at Bourem, Lere and Dioura. The rebels said they're bracing for retaliation.

Compounding the rebel violence are increasing attacks by Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, which have wracked the country for a decade and led to two coups.

The military junta that seized power in 2020 and again a year later is struggling to stem attacks. For nearly two years its forces have fought alongside Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, but violence has increased with both parties being accused of committing human rights abuses.

Fighting has spread to new locations in the north with the country averaging four violent attacks daily since the turn of the year, a 15% increase when compared to the same period last year, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).

Earlier this year the junta ousted the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which has been operating in the country for a decade. Since the peacekeepers completed the first phase of their withdrawal in August, attacks in northern Mali have more than doubled.