UPDATE 1-Mali separatists trade blame with pro-government militia over clash

Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:42am EDT
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(Adds quotes, comment from Chamber of Mines)

BAMAKO Aug 16 (Reuters) - Separatists in Mali accused a pro-government militia on Sunday of breaching a two-month-old ceasefire, leading to a fierce exchange of fire, but the militia said the separatists were the aggressors.

The two sides presented conflicting versions of Saturday's clash in northern Mali, a region where the government is trying to damp down separatist tensions while simultaneously fighting Islamist insurgents.

The incident took place south of Kidal, a stronghold of the separatist movement which is led by secular Tuareg rebels and known as the Coordination of Azawad Movements, or CMA.

The separatists said in a statement they had travelled to a rendezvous point to meet members of the Platform alliance of pro-government militias.

"While they were waiting at the agreed point our men were attacked by a column of Platform militia," they said.

"Their escort defended themselves and there was an intense exchange of fire that lasted until nightfall," they added, urging the United Nations Security Council to take note of the incident.

Fahad ag Almahamoud, secretary general of the main Platform militia, Gatia, said his group had no intention of crossing swords with the CMA.

"We reject any accusations of having violated the ceasefire and we commit ourselves to the peace deal," he told Reuters.   Continued...