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Mali denies northern region under jihadist control

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Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) has dismissed reports of an imminent fall of the north-eastern Menaka region to militants from the Islamic State (IS) group, whose presence there has increased since French forces left the country in August.

FAMa’s public relations director-general Col Souleymane Dembele disclosed this in a briefing on Monday.

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He also said the army has been frequently patrolling the region.

The remarks coincide with plans by leading trade unions in Gao to begin a two-day strike today to protest against the military government’s apparent inaction against growing Islamist militant attacks.

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This is worsened by nearly daily reports of kidnappings, armed robberies and livestock theft by criminal gangs that move between the volatile borderlands.

According to reports an audio message purportedly belonging to the leader of a prominent pro-government militia the Self-Defence Group of Imghad Tuaregs and Their Allies (Gatia), emerged on Monday urging members of the Tuareg community in Mali and neighbouring countries to take up arms against the IS.

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Since the insurgency broke out in 2012, Malian authorities have lost control of vast parts of the country.

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