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Mali Rebels Clash With Algerian Extremists

At least five former Tuareg rebels have died in a clash with Algerian Islamic militants in northern Mali, just days before the ex-rebels were set to disarm under a peace deal with Mali's central government.

The former Tuareg rebel group Democratic Alliance for Change is vowing to retaliate after an ambush by Algerian Islamic militants in Mali's remote northern desert.

The attack is believed to be revenge for the killing of an Algerian militant leader earlier this month.

Members of Algerian movement known as Group for Preaching and Combat have been in northern Mali since the end of Algeria's civil war. The two sides had lived side-by-side peacefully for many years.

Africa Analyst Stephen Ellis at Leiden University in the Netherlands says that changed when the United States listed the Algerian militants, known as the GSPC, as a terrorist group five years ago.

"Everybody in the region is intensely conscious of the interest of the United States in the area, and nobody wants to be attacked by the United States," he said. "So in particular, I guess that some of the Tuareg groups are trying to distance themselves from the GSPC to illustrate that they are no enemies of America."

Under a July peace deal with the Mali's national government, the Democratic Alliance is set to begin disarming and joining government forces this Saturday.

That deal calls for an increased development aid in the remote desert areas where the nomadic Tuareg population lives in exchange for the Democratic Alliance dropping calls for regional autonomy.