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Blast kills leader of former Tuareg rebel group

Cheick Ag Aoussa has been killed in a car explosion shortly after attending a meeting at the UN camp in northern Mali. Chancellor Merkel is due in Mali as part of her Africa tour.

Aoussa was the number two in the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA), one of the many armed groups in northern Mali. A HCUA spokesman said he was killed Saturday after leaving the UN peacekeeping MINUSMA mission where he met officials to discuss security.

Aoussa's car "was hit by a mine and he died on the spot" after he left the MINUSMA office, according to an African military source who added "he was attending a meeting, then as he went to go home he was accidentally killed."

The HCUA is one of the Tuareg separatist groups which is a signatory to a 2015 peace accord with Mali's government. But despite the accord, there has been fighting in Kidal among armed groups which were party to the peace deal.

Ongoing security risks

In a report published last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the pro-government groups and former rebels involved in the clashes should potentially face sanctions. The report warned of serious failings in the UN's mission in Mali, including the loss of vital equipment.

In 2013, the HCUA broke ties with al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine extremists who continue to carry out attacks on peacekeepers and Malian security forces. The French-led military intervention drove Islamic extremists out of north Mali in the same year.

The former rebel Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), which controls Kidal, confirmed Aouass's death and called for an "independent inquiry."

"Among the theories, there is that of an attack and a car bombing," CMA member Mohamed Ag Oussene said.

Merkel visit

Chancellor Angela Merkel begins her three-day tour of Mali, Niger and Ethiopia on Sunday to discuss German development aid and ways to prevent young Africans trying to migrate to Europe. She will meet the presidents of Chad and Nigeria in Berlin next week.

"I am convinced that our security, our life in peace and our sustainable development is connected with the living situation of people who live far away from us," Merkel said in an interview with Die Zeit published Thursday. "The more people in the world know about us, the more we must deal with them."

"We must give these countries hope for the future," Merkel said. "We must also push them to adopt better governance."

"Let me encourage all of you to show more openness in the direction of this continent," she said of Africa. "Especially since the population in Europe's neighboring continent is expected to double in the next 35 years."

Human rights

Merkel to embark on Africa tour Merkel was also urged to raise human rights issues during her Africa visit. Germany director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) Wenzel Michalski said in a statement Saturday that “any serious discussion of migration from Africa to Europe needs to focus on the grave human rights violations and governance concerns at home that force people to flee their countries."

"Ethiopia and Mali are key examples of countries where serious crimes by the security forces and lack of accountability are fueling refugee flows, and Germany’s priority should be to end these abuses," Michalski said. 

HRW said that German participation in MINUSMA should bolster efforts by the Malian government to protect civilians from the "rampant banditry and lawlessness in large areas of the country."

jm/lw (Reuters, AFP)

 

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