Briefly: Militant rivals reignite fight for region control

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MALI

BAMAKO — Fighting broke out Wednesday between secular and Islamist rebels who are vying for control of northern Mali, leaving at least three people wounded after a shootout that underlines the growing tensions in the region.

Oumar Ould Hamaha, a fighter with the Islamist group known as Ansar Dine, said a group of armed rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad tried to enter the city of Timbuktu when the groups began firing at each other.

Two of the NMLA rebels were wounded and one member of Ansar Dine was hurt in the melee, he said.

Attaye Ag Mohamed, an NMLA member, blamed the violence on al Qaeda-linked militants operating in the area.

The NMLA is led by Tuareg separatists, including some who fought in the army of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. After the fall of Tripoli and Gadhafi’s death, they regrouped in northern Mali, one of the traditional homelands of the Tuareg people, and launched a rebellion saying they wanted to carve out an independent homeland for the Tuareg nation, called Azawad.

They seized only minor towns for the first three months of their uprising, but on March 21, a coup in Mali overturned its democratically elected government. The rebels took advantage of the power vacuum to push forward and seized the northern half of the nation, a territory larger than France, in a matter of weeks.

KENYA

African force seeks EU, U.S. help in Somali war

NAIROBI — An African force fighting Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels has asked the European Union and the United States for help in wresting control of the key port of Kismayo.

“Our aim is to get to Kismayo by August,” Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said this week, adding that taking al-Shabab’s last bastion would entail an “operation by land, sea and air.”

The African Union force in Somalia has “asked the EU to help us … [but] they are reluctant,” he said at a news conference with foreign reporters.

The EU deployed a fleet of warships off the Horn of Africa in 2008 to protect merchant vessels from Somali pirates.

“We have asked the Americans for assistance. We are talking about financial assistance,” he said.

Kenya rolled tanks and troops across the border into Somalia in October, and Ethiopian soldiers went in one month later. Burundian and Ugandan troops pressured al-Shabab into abandoning fixed positions in the capital, Mogadishu, in August.

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