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Tuareg Separatists Lift Road Blockades in Northern Mali

Tuareg separatists announced Saturday the lifting of blockades they'd set up in December on main roads throughout northern Mali after the national army took back several towns.

"All blockades on the routes from the Algerian border to the towns of Timbuktu and Gao have been lifted," the Permanent Strategic Framework, an alliance of rebel forces, told Agence France-Presse, without giving more details.

The Taureg-dominated rebel groups lost control of several localities in the north of the country after an army offensive in late 2023 that culminated with the taking of Kidal, a bastion of the separatist movement.

Hostilities had resumed last August — after eight years of relative calm — as both sides fought to take possession of military camps abandoned by United Nations troops who left under orders of the Mali government.

The military junta that seized power in a 2020 coup largely won those exchanges, but the rebels didn't surrender and retreated into remote desert and mountainous areas.

Mali's army was backed by mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group, according to the rebels and local elected officials, but the regime denies the presence of the controversial private security group.

In December, the rebels blocked all products and types of vehicles in the sparsely populated north.

There also have been accusations of atrocities committed against civilians during the recent offensive by Mali's army and the Russian force, which again the authorities have repeatedly denied.