Tuareg protesters prevent voting in northern Mali town

Vote on election was meant to ensure the country's return to democracy

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Tuareg separatists in northeastern Mali prevented parliamentary elections from taking place in their town on Sunday, a Malian military source and the local separatist mayor told AFP.

“No vote, we want independence,” chanted the protesters, who destroyed ballot boxes in Talataye, 180 kilometres (110 miles) east of the city of Gao, said the military source.

Talataye mayor Mohamed Assaley said at least 2,000 people took part in the demonstration. That figure was not confirmed by the military source.

“Here, where 10,000 voters are registered, there has been no vote. The population demonstrated to prevent voting and seized election material,” Assaley said.

Assaley was a member of the ethnic-Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad armed rebel group before switching allegiance a month ago to an assembly of Tuareg civil society members that includes former separatist militants and ex-jihadists.

Mali’s vote on Sunday was meant to cement the troubled west African nation’s return to democracy after chaos and unrest sparked by a military coup in March last year. French troops in January this year led a campaign against al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in northern towns.

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