Malian soldiers and militants occupying the northern part of the country have reportedly clashed in the central town of Konna. "We have launched operations against the enemy, who attempted to fight back. We are going to oust them," a soldier told AFP on Wednesday from Konna near the town of Mopti, which is the gateway to the government-held south. The resident in Konna said that the heavy fire exchanges between the militants and the army troops have lasted several hours. "We are hearing a lot of gunfire. The army is shooting" and the militants too, said another resident by phone from the town.
The army says the rebels had previously tried to attack Konna on Monday night.The army had stationed soldiers and extra weapons in one of its command posts near Konna in the town of Sevare. In December 2012, the United Nations Security Council approved the deployment of foreign military forces in Mali to help the Malian government battle the militants controlling the northern part of the West African country. The 15-member Security Council authorized an initial one-year deployment of African Union forces in the country. The resolution, drafted by France, also authorized all European Union member states to help rebuild Mali's security forces. Chaos broke out in the West African country after Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup in response to the government's inability to contain the two-month-old Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country. However, in the wake of the coup d’état, the Tuareg rebels took control of the entire northern desert region, but the Ansar Dine extremists pushed them aside and wrested control of all the northern desert regions, which are larger than France or Texas. DB/MHB