Separatist Tuaregs announce blockade in northern Mali

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Bamako, Dec 21 (AFP/APP):Separatist Tuareg forces on Wednesday announced they had set up a blockade of the major roads in northern Mali, where the army has made gains in recent weeks.
              The Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP), an alliance of rebel forces, said it had decided to set up roadblocks across all roads leading to the country's borders with Mauritania, Algeria and Niger.
              The blockade would control access to the cities of Menaka, Kidal, Gao, Timbuktu and Taoudeni and cover all products and means of transport, said the CSP statement.
              The mainly Tuareg rebel forces have in recent weeks lost ground to a Malian army offensive that in mid-November saw them recapture the northeast city of Kidal.
              Fighting between the separatists and government troops broke out again in August after eight years of calm, as both sides scrambled to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers.
              The force, known as MINUSMA, packed up and left at the behest of Mali's military rulers in Bamako, where the colonels seized power in 2020.
              It was the army's air power, including planes and drones, that helped make its recent gains against the rebel forces.