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Landmine wounds three French soldiers in Mali

20th November 2013, Comments0 comments

Three French soldiers were wounded Wednesday in rebel-infested northern Mali when their truck hit a landmine, military sources said.

"A vehicle of the French army was hit by an explosion likely caused by a bomb, a mine on which the vehicle drove, around 1:00 am (0100 GMT) on Wednesday. Three French soldiers were wounded but their lives are not in danger," a Malian security source told AFP.

The incident in the town of Kidal and its cause were confirmed by a senior official from Operation Serval, the French-led military intervention launched in January to drive out Islamists who had occupied northern Mali.

He said the casualties were being treated in Gao, the largest city in northern Mali.

The explosion came a week after Tuareg demonstrators laid waste to public buildings in Kidal in protest at a decision by separatist leaders to end their occupation of state premises.

Young people set fire to part of the governor's offices and sacked the public treasury and a nearby state education facility, according to witnesses.

The separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) pledged two weeks ago to leave the governor's offices and radio station, in line with the terms of a June peace deal.

The accord, signed in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, opened the way for a presidential election to be held in Kidal along with the rest of the turbulent west African country in two rounds in July and August.

Up until the agreement, the MNLA -- whose ultimate goal is the independence of Azawad, the name the Tuaregs give to their homeland in northern Mali -- had refused to allow any government soldiers or civil servants into the desert town.

In January 2012, the MNLA launched an insurgency to take control of the north. A subsequent coup in the Malian capital Bamako led to chaos, and armed Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda overpowered the Tuaregs and seized control of Mali's northern half.

France's operation ousted the extremists, but sporadic attacks have continued, resulting in the kidnap and murder of two French journalists on November 2, and the Tuareg demand for autonomy has not been resolved.

© 2013 AFP

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