January 3, 2015 / 9:13 PM / 3 years ago

Mayor of Mali town killed as clashes and abuses spike in north

BAMAKO (Reuters) - The mayor of a town in northern Mali died on Saturday from wounds sustained in an ambush that killed his son, one of a string of attacks highlighting persistent instability in the north of the country.

The death of Aroudeyni Ag Hamatou, mayor of Anderaboucane, came as a United Nations mission expressed concern over human rights abuses and violations of a shaky ceasefire between rebel and pro-government factions.

Two years ago, France dispatched thousands of troops to Mali to drive al Qaeda-linked militants from towns they seized in 2012. U.N. forces have since deployed and militants have mounted a resurgence, while a series of rounds of peace talks with some rebels have failed to deliver improvements on the ground.

Mali’s government said Ag Hamatou died as he was being flown by the U.N. to Bamako for treatment. His son was killed and his driver injured when they were attacked on Jan. 1 by unknown gunmen, between Menaka and Anderaboucane in Gao region.

“The government reiterates its pledge to punish those responsible for these crimes and fight against all forms of terrorism to restore peace and security to the whole of Mali,” the government said in a statement.

However, a string of incidents in recent days have shown the fragility of any gains.

Faced with French firepower, Islamists initially melted away into the desert and mountains, but they have since hit back at the less protected U.N. troops who deployed in the north, killing more than 30 and injuring 90 since mid 2013.

Mali’s government has held a series of rounds of peace talks with rebel groups who distanced themselves from the Islamists. But the U.N. mission said on Friday it had recorded a number of clashes in Gao and Timbuktu regions that were undermining a ceasefire.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms these acts of violence and provocation, especially the hostage-taking and pillaging,” U.N. mission chief David Gressly said in a statement.

Gressly said all parties involved in peace talks were responsible for ensuring the ceasefire held so a final round of talks in Algiers can be completed.

Additional reporting and writing by David Lewis; Editing by David Holmes

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