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Mali instals new defence minister after Tuareg raids
by Staff Writers
Bamako (AFP) Feb 2, 2012

Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure Thursday swapped his defence and security ministers after a series of Tuareg rebel raids and warned against attacks on civilian members of the nomadic tribe.

General Sadio Gassama was shifted from the security portfolio to defence while Natie Plea became the the new security minister, according to a presidential decree read out on state television.

It did not give any reason for the swap.

Mali's Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga began talks with Tuareg rebels in Algeria on Thursday. No details were immediately available.

Toure, in a speech broadcast to the nation on Wednesday night, also urged citizens not to stage revenge attacks on Tuareg civilians as families of soldiers fighting in the north took to the streets in protest against the "weak" response to attacks by the rebels.

Homes and property of Tuareg have been vandalised in the towns of Segou, 240 kilometres (150 miles) from Bamako, and Kati, close to the capital.

In Kati, soldier's wives and children protested on Thursday, chanting slogans accusing Toure of backing rebels and demanding weapons for their husbands.

In a speech focusing on the country's troubled north, Toure said Malians should "avoid the trap of confusion and not play the game of those who have chosen to disturb the peace."

"Those who attacked some military barracks and towns in the north must not be confused with our fellow Tuaregs, Arabs, Songhoi, Fulani, who live with us," said Toure.

He said these communities "who share our difficulties", who chose Mali, have "the same rights and aspirations as us to live in peace in a country dedicated to its development."

The Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) and other Tuareg rebels launched a fresh offensive in northern Mali on January 17, attacking several towns and causing thousands to flee.

A Mauritanian administrative source said Thursday some 4,500 Malians fleeing fighting had entered the neighbouring country in recent days.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Niamey on Wednesday reported about 1,000 people had fled to Niger.

The ongoing offensive is the largest since 2009 by Tuareg rebels, whose ranks have been boosted by the return of men who fought in Libya for Moamer Kadhafi.

Bamako accuses the recently formed MNLA of links with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, whose campaign of attacks and kidnappings has dealt a blow to foreign tourism and investment in the region.

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Tuareg rebels take Mali town after army pullout
Bamako (AFP) Feb 1, 2012
Mali's Tuareg rebels took over the northern town of Menaka Wednesday after the government forces stationed there pulled out overnight, officials and witnesses said. "The Malian army contingent that was in Menaka left the town overnight. Around 40 armed rebels entered it in the afternoon," a local official said on condition of anonymity. He said no violence was reported but added that res ... read more

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