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National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad

national movement for the liberation of azawad, national movement for the liberation of azawad (mnla)
2012–present Northern Mali conflict

  • Tuareg rebellion 2012
  • Battle of Menaka
  • Battle of Gao
  • Battle of In Arab
Website wwwmnlamovnet

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad or the Azawad National Liberation Movement4 Tamasheq: ⵜⴰⵏⴾⵔⴰ ⵏ ⵜⵓⵎⴰⵙⵜ ⴹ ⴰⵙⵍⴰⵍⵓ ⵏ ⴰⵣⴰⵓⴷ5 Tankra n Tumast ḍ Aslalu n Azawd, Arabic: الحركة الوطنية لتحرير أزواد‎‎, French: Mouvement national de libération de l'Azawad; MNLA, formerly the National Movement of Azawad6 French: Mouvement national de l'Azawad; MNA, is a political and military organisation based in Azawad in northern Mali The movement is mostly made up of ethnic Tuareg, some of whom are believed to have fought in the Libyan army7 during the 2011 Libyan Civil War though other Tuareg MNLA fighters were on the side of the National Transitional Council and returned to Mali after that warcitation needed The movement was founded in October 2011 and had statedcitation needed that it includes other Saharan peoples The Malian government has accused the movement of having links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb8 However, the MNLA denies this claim By 1 April 2012 the MNLA and Ansar Dine were in control of virtually all of northern Mali, including its three largest cities of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu Tensions between the MNLA and Ansar Dine culminated in the Battle of Gao, in which the MNLA lost control of northern Malian cities to Ansar Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa


  • 1 History
    • 11 Factionalism
    • 12 Independence fight
    • 13 Conflict with Islamist groups
    • 14 Return of Malian troops to Azawad
  • 2 Organisation
    • 21 Leadership
    • 22 Armed forces and equipment
  • 3 Split off
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links


Further information: Tuareg rebellion 2012

Since 1916 there have been at least five Tuareg rebellions After the failure of the 2007–2009 rebellion in northern Nigeria and Mali, some Tuareg fighters left for Libya where they were integrated into the Libyan Army9 At the end of 2011, following the defeat of Libyan Arab Jamahiriya several Tuareg from the Libyan Army10 and the rebel National Transitional Council returned to the Azawad regions of northern Mali1112 Many fighters returned from Libya for either financial reasons, such as losing their savings, or due to the alleged racism of NTC fighters and militias13

The MNLA was said to have been formed after a fusion of such groups as the Northern Mali Tuareg Movement An alleged influx of arms intended for rebels in Libya led to a huge cache in the largely ungoverned desert areas around where the Tuareg live and causing concern that much of the heavy weaponry remains unaccounted for and could be sold to the highest bidder1415 Though some analysis has denied the connections to either Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM or Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyan Civil War, although the potency of this rebellion was still read as being influenced from weapons from Libya, as well as leftovers from previous rebellions in Azawad and even from Mali's army which were taken by defecting Arab and Tuareg personnel6 The group is considered to be secular16 The Tuareg fighters within the ranks of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad have been considered former allies of Muammar Gaddafi which may have organized after the Tuareg Rebellion between 2007 and 200917

MNLA's adopted flag for Azawad

They have also been accused by the government of Mali of cooperating with AQIM8 The MNLA have denied this claim18

The MNLA was founded in October 2011;19 though it is sometimes considered to have been founded more than a year earlier20 in relation to other such groups The MNLA have presented themselves as a movement for the liberation of all the peoples of Azawad Songhai, Arab, Fula and Tuareg612 There were also rumours that the group has been supported by battle-hardened Tuaregs from Niger21 On the subject of its composition, the MNLA has declared:

The MNLA National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad would like to make it clear that within the MNLA military command there are: old rebels from the uprisings of the 1990s MFUA – Movements of the united Fronts of Azawad, of 2006 MTNM – The Tuareg Movement of Northern Mali, which was led by the late Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, fighters who have returned from Libya but who mostly participated in the liberation of that country, volunteers from the various ethnicities of northern Mali Tuareg, Songhai, Peul and Moor and both soldiers and officers who have deserted from the Malian army

— Official Website of the MNLA12


The MNLA was rumoured to have factionalised, according to the sources in the Malian government,22 with the Islamist Ansar Dine claiming control of the region after the capture of several cities,23 previously attributed to the MNLA Though the international media has linked the MNLA to Ansar Dine and AQIM, the MNLA has distanced itself from both groups, stating that their sole goal is the independence of Azawad24 However, after the fall of Timbuktu it said that Azawad would be governed along with Ansar Dinecitation needed On 26 May, the MNLA and Ansar Dine announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state, renamed the Islamic Republic of Azawad25

Independence fightedit

Main article: Tuareg rebellion 2012

MNLA launched its armed campaign in January 20122627 to free three regions of Mali from the central government's control15 and seeking the independence of Azawad28

The MNLA's fight is for their claim of Malian Azawad Area captured is indicated

In January, its fighters attacked Andéramboukane, Menaka, Tessalit, Niafunke, and Aguelhoc29 They were reported to be in control of parts of northern Mali, such as Menaka on 1 February30 During that time the movement was said to have opened a fifth front in the town of Lere31 At the end of January, they claimed to have shot down a Malian Air Force Mig-21 with the surface-to-air missiles acquired from NATO arms drops over Libya14 The military of Mali have also used helicopter gunships to target the group20 On 4 February, the movement's fighters attacked government forces in Kidal with the aim of taking control of the town and occupying the two military bases there32 Further towns were seized and re-seized over the course of February and March At the same time, following clashes in the north, Tuareg civilians were said to have left Bamako for fear of reprisals33 The International Committee of the Red Cross also said that 3,500 people had fled across the border to Mauritania and that 10,000 people had crossed into Niger during the clashes28 On 8 February, Tinzawaten was wrested from central government control after Malian troops took a "tactical withdrawal" following the death of one soldier and injuries to two other soldiers, amid calls by the United Nations for an halt to the offensive One rebel was also killed and another was wounded, while the MNLA seized two military bases and the weapons storages there The ICRC added that there were 30,000 internally displaced persons, while the UN said that over 20,000 people have fled to Burkina Faso, Algeria and Mauritania The United Nations also warned of food shortages as a result of the fighting34 The UN refugee agency estimated 22,000 people had been displaced in February35 Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS planned to send a team to investigate the violence36 It also condemned their actions and called for logistical support for Mali37 After the March coup d'etat the MNLA, as well as Ansar Dine, took control of several small towns and also the bigger cities of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu Timbuktu was read by Reuters of being the culmination of the plan to capture northern Mali38 The MNLA announced that by taking Timbuktu it sought to "dislodge Mali's remaining political and military administration" in the region and said that it would rule the region with Ansar Dine in opposition to the administration in Bamako39

On 6 April, in an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad as an independent state and said the movement would act as a provisional administration until the establishment of a government40

In the same interview, Attaher also promised that Azawad would "respect all the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours" and insisted that Azawad's declaration of independence has "some international legality"41 Two days following the declaration of independence, the Arab-dominated National Liberation Front of Azawad FLNA were formed to defend Timbuktu from alleged Tuareg domination42

Conflict with Islamist groupsedit

Main article: Internal conflict in Azawad

Although both the MNLA and the various Islamist groups fought against a common foe the Malian government in the beginning of the conflict, there were deep ideological differences between them The goal of the MNLA, to establish a secular and independent state of Azawad out of Northern Mali, contrasted sharply with the aims of the Islamist groups, who wanted a united Mali under Sharia law Once the Malian government's forces had been evicted the region, the two ideological camps began to turn against each other

On 26 May, the MNLA and Ansar Dine announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state25 However, some later reports indicated the MNLA had decided to withdraw from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine4344

On 26 June 2012, the tension came to all-out combat in Gao between the MNLA and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa MOJWA, with both sides firing heavy weapons MNLA Secretary General Bilal ag Acherif was wounded in the battle45 The MNLA were soon driven from the city,46 and from Kidal and Timbuktu shortly after However, the MNLA stated that it continued to maintain forces and control some rural areas in the region47 The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali48

Ansar Dine and MNLA delegates in Ouagadougou with Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré, November 16, 2012

At first, the MNLA retained control of the city of Ménaka, with hundreds of people taking refuge in the city from the rule of the Islamists, and the city of Tinzawatène fr near the Algerian border49 In the same month, a splinter group broke off from the MNLA; calling itself the Front for the Liberation of the Azawad FPA, stating that Tuareg independence was no longer a realistic goal and that they must concentrate on fighting the Islamists50

On 16 November 2012, MNLA forces launched an offensive against Gao in an attempt to retake the town However, by the end of the day, the Tuaregs were beaten back by the MOJWA forces after the Islamists laid an ambush for them51 On 19 November 2012, MOJWA and AQIM forces took over Ménaka from the MNLA52

On 14 January 2013, after the French intervention in the conflict had commenced, the MNLA declared it would fight alongside the French and even the Malian government to "end terrorism in Azawad"53 At the same time, however, the MNLA warned the Malian forces not to enter territories it considered its own before an autonomy agreement was signed54 The spokesman also declared that the MNLA would be a more effective force than those of the neighboring West African nations "because of our knowledge of the ground and the populations"53

Return of Malian troops to Azawadedit

Following the French intervention in Mali, Malian troops and the MNLA signed a peace agreement This allowed for Malian troops to return to such cities as Kidal There were still reports of conflict between those who supported the presence of the 200 Malian soldiers at a local barracks and those that supported the MNLA, who sought to keep Malian soldiers out Kidal's Deputy Mayor Abda Ag Kazina said: "The Malian army arrived in Kidal There were two demonstrations, one was to support the army and the other was to prevent the army from returning There were shots fired in the air and the protesters dispersed"55

On 28 November, after a few hundreds Tuareg protesters were violently confronted by Malian soldiers over the visit of Malian Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly to MNLA-controlled Kidal, one of the MNLA founders, Attaye Ag Mohamed, said: "The political and military wings of the Azawad declare the lifting of the ceasefire with the central government in Bamako All our military positions are on alert"56



One of the founding leaders was said to be Moussa Ag Acharatoumane31 Another influential leader in the group was Ibrahim Ag Bahanga as well as his father-in-law Hama Ag Sid'Ahmed, who was also a spokesman for a group in the previous rebellion from the 1990 and 2006 rebellions After he was defeated and forced into exile in Libya, he was said to have met with other leaders of the 1990 rebellion who had taken up posts in a new unit of the Libyan army to fight desert warfare Ibrahim sought to have a proficient force to fight against the Malian state and outside the media spotlight However, he was killed on 26 August 2011citation needed One of the officers he had met in Libya was Colonel Ag Mohamed Najem,6 who is said by the movement to be the head of its military wing20 He is of Malian origin but resigned from the Libyan Army shortly after the uprising to join the Tuareg rebellion in Mali15 Colonel Dilal Ag Alsherif is another military leader of the movement57 There are said to be about 40 officers in the MNLA movement6 There are also deserters from the Malian Army, including officers Colonel Nagim is one such officer, who led the charge to capture two cities58 The General Secretary of the movement is Bilal Ag Acherif20 The spokesman for the MNLA's political wing is Hama Ag Mahmoud59 Following the independence declaration, Mahmoud Ag Aghaly was appointed as the head of the interim Executive Committee of the MNLA that was said to govern Azawad60

Armed forces and equipmentedit

Following their victory over the Malian army, the MNLA established their main base at the airport of Gao where they had stocked 30 functional tanks and 10 being repaired An unnamed commander of the MNLA said that at the beginning they were mainly armed from weapons brought by fighters returning from Libya, but that later of their equipment was seized from the Malian army61

Split offedit

Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, a former external relations representative of the MNLA, split off from the party in March 2014 and formed the Coalition for the People of Azawad He was said to be frustrated at the hardline negotiations position Bilal Ag Acherif took when dealing with the Malian government62


  1. ^ Mann, Gregory 5 April 2012, "The Mess in Mali", Foreign Policy 
  2. ^ "Bureau Exécutif du Mouvement National de Libération de L'Azawad MNLA" Mnlamov Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  3. ^ "Images et témoignage exclusifs du nord du Mali: un colonel du MNLA dévoile son arsenal militaire" in French France24 21 June 2012 Retrieved 18 January 2013 
  4. ^ Pflanz, Mike 1 April 2012, "Mali rebels seize Timbuktu", The Telegraph, London 
    Tuareg rebellion sparks crisis in Mali, Al Jazeera English, 18 February 2012 
  5. ^ "Mouvement National de Liberation de l'Azawad" in French Mnlamov Retrieved 9 April 2012 
  6. ^ a b c d e Morgan, Andy 6 February 2012 "The Causes of the Uprising in Northern Mali" Think Africa Press Archived from the original on 9 February 2012 Retrieved 10 February 2012 
  7. ^ Vogl, Martin 31 January 2012 "Tuareg rebels attack 6th town in Mali" Google News Associated Press Retrieved 4 February 2012 dead link
  8. ^ a b "Mali government official says al-Qaida fighters among those attacking northern towns" The Washington Post 27 January 2012 Retrieved 4 February 2012 dead link
  9. ^ Daniel, Serge 17 January 2012 "Mali army bombs Tuareg rebels, four arrested: military" Google News Agence France-Presse Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  10. ^ "Mali: 47 Die in Clashes Between Troops, Rebels" allafricacom 19 January 2012 Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  11. ^ "Mali's irrevocable crisis" Al Jazeera 15 April 2012 Retrieved 18 January 2013 
  12. ^ a b c "They are not mercenaries" Mnlamov 22 January 2012 Retrieved 9 April 2012 
  13. ^ 1dead link
  14. ^ a b Oumar, Jemal; Ramzi, Walid 30 January 2012 "Loose Libyan missiles threaten air traffic" Magharebia Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  15. ^ a b c Stewart, Scott 2 February 2012 "Returning Malian Mercenaries Present a Challenge for Mali and the West" The Cutting Edge News Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  16. ^ "Mali coup leaders to stand down as part of Ecowas deal" BBC 7 April 2012 Retrieved 7 April 2012 
  17. ^ The People of Uganda: A Social Perspective - Godfrey Mwakikagile Retrieved 18 January 2013 
  18. ^ "Mali says rebels fight with Qaeda, rebels deny" Reuters Africa Reuters 27 January 2012 Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  19. ^ Vogl, Martin 26 January 2012 "In Mali, a Tuareg rebellion _ without Gadhafi" Google News Associated Press Retrieved 5 February 2012 dead link
  20. ^ a b c d "Mali: Fighting In North; The New Touareg War" Eurasia Review 20 January 2012 Retrieved 10 February 2012 
  21. ^ Jeremy Keenan 20 March 2012 "Mali's Tuareg rebellion: What next" Al Jazeera Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  22. ^ "Rupture entre le MNLA et Ançar Dine au nord du Mali" in French maliweb RFI 20 March 2012 Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  23. ^ "Armed Islamist group claims control in northeast Mali" Google News Agence France Presse 20 March 2012 Archived from the original on 23 November 2012 Retrieved 29 March 2012 
  24. ^ "Warriors and websites – a new kind of rebellion in Mali" IRIN 26 March 2012 Retrieved 3 April 2012 
  25. ^ a b "Mali Tuareg and Islamist rebels agree on Sharia state" BBC News 26 May 2012 Retrieved 27 May 2012 
  26. ^ "JTIC Brief: MNLA re-awakens Tuareg separatism in Mali" Jane's Information Group 2 February 2012 Retrieved 4 February 2012 
  27. ^ "Dozens of Tuareg rebels dead in Mali clash, says army" BBC 20 January 2012 Retrieved 4 February 2012 
  28. ^ a b Diallo, Tiemoko; Diarra, Adama 4 February 2012 "Mali says 20 rebels killed, thousands flee" Reuters Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  29. ^ Stewart, Scott 2 February 2012 "Mali Besieged by Fighters Fleeing Libya" Stratfor Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  30. ^ "Tuareg rebels take Mali town after army pullout" Google News Agence France-Presse 1 February 2012 Archived from the original on 23 November 2012 Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  31. ^ a b "Tuareg rebels attack fifth town in Mali" Al Jazeera 26 January 2012 Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  32. ^ "Heavy weapons fire rocks town in Mali's north" Reuters Africa Reuters 4 February 2012 Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  33. ^ "UPDATE 1-Mali capital paralysed by anti-rebellion protests" Reuters Africa Reuters 2 February 2012 Retrieved 5 February 2012 
  34. ^ "UPDATE 1-Malian rebels seize key border town, civilians flee" Reuters 9 February 2012 Retrieved 10 February 2012 
  35. ^ “Malian refugees in Niger await food and water,” AlJazeera 07 Feb 2012
  36. ^ Clottey, Peter 8 February 2012 "ECOWAS Team to Investigate Fighting in Mali" Voice of America Retrieved 9 February 2012 
  37. ^ "Mali News: ECOWAS warns Tuareg rebels" GlobalPost 21 March 2012 Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  38. ^ Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra 1 April 2012 "Mali rebels say surround Timbuktu, army flees" Chicago Tribune Reuters Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  39. ^ Mike Pflanz 1 April 2012 "Timbuktu encircled as Mali coup intensifies" London: Telegraph Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  40. ^ "Tuareg rebels declare the independence of Azawad, north of Mali" Al Arabiya 6 April 2012 Retrieved 6 April 2012 
  41. ^ "Tuareg rebels declare independence in north Mali" France 24 6 April 2012 Retrieved 6 April 2012 
  42. ^ "New north Mali Arab force seeks to "defend" Timbuktu" Reuters 10 April 2012 
  43. ^ Biiga, Bark 3 June 2012 "Nord Mali: le MNLA refuse de se mettre "en sardine"!" in French FasoZine Retrieved 3 June 2012 
  44. ^ "Mali Islamists Reopen Talks With Tuareg Rebels" Voice of America 2 June 2012 Retrieved 2 June 2012 
  45. ^ "Mali Islamists 'oust' Tuaregs from Timbuktu" News 24 Agence France-Presse 29 June 2012 Retrieved 29 June 2012 
  46. ^ Zoe Flood 29 June 2012 "Trouble in Timbuktu as Islamists extend control" The Daily Telegraph London Retrieved 30 June 2012 
  47. ^ Adam Nossiter 15 July 2012 "As Refugees Flee Islamists in Mali, Solutions Are Elusive" The New York Times Archived from the original on 29 August 2012 Retrieved 28 August 2012 
  48. ^ Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra 28 June 2012 "Islamists declare full control of Mali's north" Reuters Retrieved 29 June 2012 
  49. ^ Salima Tlemçani 11 October 2012 "The limits of military intervention" El Watan in French Archived from the original on 15 October 2012 Retrieved 15 October 2012 
  50. ^ Brahima Ouedraogo 24 September 2012 "Mali's secular Tuareg rebels splinter, new group says independence unrealistic" The Star Tribune Associated Press Archived from the original on 15 October 2012 Retrieved 15 October 2012 
  51. ^ "New fighting breaks out in northern Mali" France 24 16 November 2012 Retrieved 12 January 2013 
  52. ^ "North Mali clashes kill dozens, some unarmed: source" Google News AFP, 20 November 2012
  53. ^ a b Hirsch, Afua; Willsher, Kim 14 January 2013 "Mali conflict: France has opened gates of hell, say rebels" The Guardian London 
  54. ^ "Tuaregs promise to help defeat Mali rebels" StarafricaCom 14 January 2013 
  55. ^ "Mali's army returns to northern city of Kidal" Aljazeera 6 July 2013 
  56. ^ "Mali's Tuareg fighters end ceasefire" Aljazeera 30 November 2013 
  57. ^ "The Associated Press: Mali state TV goes off air; fear of countercoup" Google 23 March 2012 Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  58. ^ "Après la prise de Tessalit: Le MNLA continue sa conquête du nord-Mali" in French Fratmat 16 March 2012 Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  59. ^ "Tuareg rebels ready for Mali talks" Al Jazeera 2 April 2012 Retrieved 3 April 2012 
  60. ^ "Communiqué du Président du bureau politique du MNLA, Mahmoud Ag Aghaly" in French Temoust 1 April 2012 Retrieved 9 April 2012 
  61. ^ Peggy Bruguière 21 June 2012 "Images et témoignage exclusifs du nord du Mali: un colonel du MNLA dévoile son arsenal militaire" in French France 24 Retrieved 2 July 2012 
  62. ^ Andrew McGregor 4 April 2014 "New rebel movement declared in Northern Mali" Terrorism Monitor Retrieved 1 February 2015 

External linksedit

  • Official website in French

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National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad

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