U.N. lifts security zone around Mali town as security improves

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 27, 2015 10:59 AM

BAMAKO (Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers are lifting a security zone they imposed around the town of Kidal in northern Mali because fears of an attack have diminished after rival clans signed a peace deal earlier this month, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Peacekeepers imposed the 20-km zone on Aug. 20 over concerns that pro-government forces would try to take the separatist stronghold. They began to lift the zone on Monday, said Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the MINUSMA mission.

"We think there is no more danger. We are no longer fearful for the security of the civilian population. People can attend to their daily business without danger," said Achouri.

Risks have diminished since the deal reached between the Ifoghas and Inghad clans, the rival ethnic Tuareg groups supporting the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements and the pro-government militia Platform, respectively.

The government also signed an agreement with the separatists in June.

The U.N. mission has been in Mali since 2013, after Malian and French forces recaptured the north from separatists who seized the area in 2012 with help from al Qaeda-linked militants.

At the weekend, three civilians died in northern Mali when their vehicle hit a landmine and two U.N. peacekeepers who went to their aid were wounded when a second mine exploded, a Malian military source said. The mines exploded in the vicinity of a U.N. base at Tessalit, outside the security zone area, Achouri said.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Hugh Lawson)