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Mali Government, Tuareg Reach Agreement


Mali's government has reached a peace agreement with northern Tuareg rebels, who staged attacks in May on several military bases. The Malian government has promised to speed up development in northern regions, while the rebels have, for the time being, dropped demands for autonomy.

Malian officials say the agreement was reached during talks this week in Algeria.

They say rebels will drop previous demands of autonomy, special status or local governance in exchange for promises of speedy development projects in their regions.

Algerian mediators said the rebels will hand over weapons they stole during a May 23 raid on military bases, while, they say, Tuareg army deserters, who fled to border areas with Algeria will be reintegrated into the army.

The attack killed several people and caused the displacement of thousands of frightened civilians for several weeks.

It ignited fears of a return to the chronic violence that plagued northern Malian regions in the 1960s and 1990s, pitting the army against ethnic Tuareg insurgents, who felt discriminated against by a black African dominated government.

The latest violence comes as the U.S. government has been helping Mali's army fight potential terrorists in the vast Sahel region, including groups operating out of Algeria.

Rebels confirmed a deal had been reached, and said they would explain it to local populations.

But a Tuareg working for the British-based advocacy group Oxfam, Mohamed Ali Ag Mattahel, says civilians were not all in agreement with the actions of the rebels, in the first place.

He says they were viewed as manipulated individuals spreading only fear and chaos.

Mattahel says Tuaregs do not just need the help of the Malian government, but of the international community at large. He says the dry season has been brutal this year, and that, if rains do not begin within the next two weeks, the herds of Tuareg pastoral communities will be decimated.