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Malian Troops Enter Rebel-Held Town Under Peace Deal

  • VOA News

People surround a United Nations peacekeeper car during a protest against sending peacekeepers from Senegal to the northern rebel-held town of Kidal, before sending Malian soldiers there, in Gao, Mali, July 5, 2013.

People surround a United Nations peacekeeper car during a protest against sending peacekeepers from Senegal to the northern rebel-held town of Kidal, before sending Malian soldiers there, in Gao, Mali, July 5, 2013.

Mali's army has entered a key rebel-held northern town, following a recent peace agreement.

Malian officials said Friday more than 150 soldiers entered Kidal, which had been controlled by ethnic Tuareg rebels.

The Reuters news agency reports that some supporters of the rebels gathered to protest the deployment, touching off scuffles with residents who support the return of Malian troops. It says U.N. troops who are stationed in the town helped to break up the protests.

Last month, Mali's government and the Tuareg rebel group, MNLA, signed a peace deal that called for Malian security forces and civilian officials to return to Kidal before a July 28 presidential election. It also called for the rebels to be disarmed.

The MNLA has been fighting for an independent Tuareg state in northern Mali. The group seized control of Kidal after French and African forces drove Islamist militants out of the region earlier this year.

The July 28 election is meant to restore democracy in Mali.

Soldiers toppled the the president in March 2012, allowing the MNLA and the militants to take control of the north. The Islamist groups pushed aside the MNLA a few months later.
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