Army chief ousted in extremist-torn Mali

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Six senior Malian military officers, including the army chief of staff and head of the national guard, were relieved of their functions on Wednesday, the country’s junta-run government said.

The four others are the heads of military security, the gendarmerie police force, military engineers and armed forces’ health service, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

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The communique gave no reason for the announcement.

The landlocked Sahel state is in the grip of an 11-year-old extremist insurgency that has ricocheted across the region, killing thousands and forcing millions from their homes.

Mali is run by a military junta that seized power in 2020 and broke a long-standing alliance with France, choosing instead to forge close ties with Russia.

In a separate development on Wednesday, three groups in northern Mali that have a record of clashes with the central government in Bamako signed an agreement to amalgamate.

The groups have until now been components of a predominantly Tuareg alliance called the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).

The three are the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the Upper Council for Azawad Unity (HCUA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA).

They “decided to amalgamate the movements which constitute the CMA into a single political and military entity,” they said in a one-page statement.

In 2012, the groups launched an insurrection against the Malian state before signing a peace agreement with it in 2015 that sets the goal of greater regional autonomy and integrating combatants in a reformed arm.

The insurrection was initially joined by extremist groups that continued their fight after the other rebels signed the peace deal.

Wednesday’s announcement comes amid mounting tensions between these northern groups and the junta.

In December, the CMA announced it was suspending participation in mechanisms for implement the 2015 accord, angrily accusing the junta of lacking “the political will” to honor its provisions.

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