A new Tuareg rebel group, which includes nomads who fought for the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, launched attacks yesterday in several towns in Mali.
Many ethnic Tuareg fighters returned home to Mali after the Libyan strongman was killed in October. Some joined a rebel group called the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad.
Most of the fighting yesterday was in Menaka, a town in eastern Mali. "We heard rifles being fired and some heavy weapons too," said a trader, adding that Malian helicopters fired at the attackers.
The Tuaregs have long complained that Mali's central government – dominated by ethnic groups from the south – has ignored the nation's impoverished north. Successive peace deals were supposed to give a greater share of the nation's resources to the nomads, but some factions have said the government did not fulfil its promises.