BAMAKO: French warplanes attacked an Islamist base in north Mali at the weekend, wounding four members of the Arab Movement of the Azawad (MAA), after the extremists clashed with Tuareg rebels, MAA and security sources said Monday.
"Four fighters of the MAA were wounded during bombing by the French air force (on Sunday) against our base at Infara," 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border with Algeria, Boubacar Ould Taleb, a leader of the MAA, told AFP in the capital Bamako by telephone.
"They were French planes (...) that bombed our base. Five vehicles belonging to our movement were also destroyed," Ould Taleb added, denouncing the "open support" France was giving to the Tuareg rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
Ould Taleb accused MNLA fighters of "looting the goods of our relatives" and "raping our daughters and our wives."
A regional security source confirmed the attack. "French military planes on Sunday bombed MAA positions hard up against the Algerian border," he said.
Infara lies 30 kilometres from In-Khalil, another Malian village where the MAA clashed on Saturday with the MNLA, a veteran separatist movement that has aligned itself with Mali's army and the French in their bid to rid northern Mali of armed Islamic fundamentalists. Azawad is the name Tuaregs give to their would-be state in the north.
Mohamed Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, an MNLA official based in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, on Saturday said that Tuareg forces were attacked by "terrorists" led by Omar Ould Hamaha of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). The MUJAO was one of the Islamist movements that occupied northern Mali after a March 2012 coup in Bamako led to military chaos.
Ag Asseleh also accused "the MAA and Ansar Al-Sharia", a splinter "dissident group from the MUJAO", of attacking MNLA forces.
He said the MNLA had taken "nine prisoners: six who claim to belong to the MUJAO and three from Ansar Al-Charia".
The MAA, a separatist movement formed in March 2012, confirmed that its forces launched an attack at 4:00 am (0400 GMT) on Saturday in what it said were reprisals for violence committed by Arab forces in the region.