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Mali, France Condemn Alleged Tuareg Rebel Atrocities


Youths protest government's handling of attacks by Tuareg rebels in the north, Bamako, Mali, Feb. 2, 2012.

Youths protest government's handling of attacks by Tuareg rebels in the north, Bamako, Mali, Feb. 2, 2012.

The government of Mali has joined with France in condemning alleged atrocities that have occurred during a new offensive launched by Tuareg rebels in the northwest African nation.

The ethnic Tuaregs are seeking autonomy in Mali's northern regions.

French Development Minister Henri de Raincourt, who visited Mali last week, said there is increasing concern about the situation in Aguelhok, one of several northern towns that have come under attack by the rebels. He said atrocities have been committed there, what he called "absolutely unacceptable violence and brutality" with close to 100 people killed.

A senior officer in Mali's army accuses the rebels of conducting summary executions. Raincourt said some of the victims had their throats slit and others were shot in the head.

The Tuareg rebels are known as the Azawad National Liberation Movement. A spokesman for the group, Abdoul Karim Ag Matafa, said those killed in Aguelhok were Malian soldiers, not civilians.

A Malian army colonel accused the group of having support from al-Qaida's north African wing. The Tuareg spokesman denied the allegation.

Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is "deeply concerned" about civilian casualties in Mali and the large numbers of people displaced by the renewed fighting. The International Committee of the Red Cross puts the number of displaced at 30,000.

A Red Cross official told reporters that large numbers of people are now living in "dire conditions" in northern Mali.

Tuareg nomads are present throughout Africa's Sahel region and have launched uprisings in both Mali and Niger in the last decade.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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