Exchanges of gunfire occurred on the morning of Monday, October 16, between the Malian army and rebels from the Cadre Stratégique Permanent (CSP). There were no reported casualties, but the clashes resulted from the recent landing of a new military aircraft in this area of the Kidal region, a key point of contention between the two warring factions.
According to UN sources, a large military cargo plane of the Malian army landed on the Tessalit runway around 6:30 a.m. on Monday. This plane is primarily used for transporting equipment, such as weaponry, ammunition, or vehicles, but can also serve for troop transport. The exact contents of this flight remain unknown. The Malian army’s plane departed shortly after it arrived at approximately 6:45 a.m., leaving little time for unloading.
The CSP rebels engaged in a firefight with Malian soldiers at the Tessalit camp as the plane landed, but no casualties have been reported so far. A military source from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) described this exchange as a form of intimidation from both sides.
The CSP rebels stated that the gunfire exchange lasted just under an hour, ending around 7:20 a.m. They expressed their position that these actions were intended to intimidate.
Notably, the UN mission in Mali was not informed about the arrival of this specific military flight.
This incident follows a similar occurrence on the previous Thursday when two aircraft transported several Malian soldiers and Russian Wagner group mercenaries to Tessalit. This action provoked anger among Chadian peacekeeping troops stationed in Tessalit and the CSP rebels, who accused the UN mission of complicity.
The Minusma and the Malian army share the use of the Tessalit runway. The UN mission is scheduled to withdraw from Tessalit, initially planned for September but later rescheduled for mid-October, as part of its complete withdrawal from Mali by the end of the year.
The Malian army has declared its intention to reclaim the Tessalit UN camp, along with those in Aguelhoc and Kidal, which are strongholds of the CSP rebels. The rebels believe these bases belong to them, as they were situated in areas officially under their control during the signing of the 2015 peace agreement.
Over the weekend, the United Nations expressed concerns through a statement about the obstacles imposed by the Malian transitional government on its withdrawal process, highlighting that since September 24, Minusma’s logistics convoys were not allowed to leave Gao for retrieving UN and troop-contributing countries’ equipment in Aguelhoc, Tessalit, and Kidal.
The Malian government openly urges Minusma to adhere to the scheduled deadlines, while the UN mission affirms its determination to withdraw on time. However, it warns that the difficulties posed by Bamako could significantly impact the mission’s ability to meet the timeline.
On October 14, the CSP took control of several recently vacated forward posts near the Tessalit airport, aiming to prevent the Malian army from occupying them and opposing the arrival of additional Fama reinforcements.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), between 40,000 and 50,000 people have fled the Kidal region in recent days and arrived in Algeria. These families primarily come from Anefis, Tessalit, Aguelhoc, Kidal, and other northern Mali localities. According to UNHCR, they are distributed among Borj Madji Mokhtar, Tamanrasset, Tinzaouatène, and Timyawen.
UNHCR has sought permission from Algerian authorities to conduct a humanitarian needs assessment mission in southern Algeria.