Tuareg rebels are moving to exert their own authority over north Mali by issuing security passes for the region, officials and residents said on Friday, underscoring the challenge of unifying the West African state before planned elections.
Rebels from the pro-autonomy MNLA have been handing out the security documents, stamped in name of the Azawad Republic they proclaimed last year, to drivers of vehicles in and around their northern stronghold of Kidal.
The Tuaregs re-occupied the isolated northern town in January after Islamist rebels holding the town fled an offensive by French troops.
The MNLA had seized control of north Mali, which it calls Azawad, in an April 2012 uprising. It was quickly pushed aside by better-armed Islamist rebels, including al Qaeda’s North African wing AQIM, sparking fears the region would become a launchpad for attacks on the West. . .