RABAT, Morocco (AP) — The separatist Tuareg movement in Mali broke off cooperation with the U.N. peacekeeping movement after a clash left several of its fighters dead and threatened Friday to boycott the next round of peace talks.
Mossa Ag Attaher said in a press conference held in Rabat, Morocco that the peacekeeping mission was siding with the government and its allied militias after one of the mission's attack helicopters killed seven separatist fighters near the remote desert town of Tabancort on Tuesday.
"Today it is more urgent than ever to review the rule of the MINUSMA in Mali," he said, referring to the peacekeeping mission charged with stabilizing the north of the country. "We have decided to end all cooperation with MINUSMA."
He added that his movement would only participate in the next round of peace talks set for Feb. 8 in Algeria if government troops withdrew from the north.
The United Nations said their forces came under fire from Attaher's National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad near Tabancort and so they responded.
In a statement, MINUSMA on Friday called on all parties to exercise restraint and create a climate of peace and trust to ensure the success of the next round of peace talks.
NMLA supporters attacked U.N. peacekeepers in response to the attack at the airport in the nearby city of Kidal on Wednesday, burning generators and tearing down tents.
Northern Mali fell under control of Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention in 2013 scattered the extremists, but some remain active and there have been continued bursts of violence.
U.N. troops are now trying to stabilize the north, and peace talks have begun in Algiers between the Malian government and Tuaregs, who maintain a heavy presence in Kidal and have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government.