A northern Mali rebel leader who was a signatory to a key 2015 peace accord was shot dead in the capital Bamako on Tuesday, prompting outrage from senior figures in the Sahel country.
Officials and family members said Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, who was in his sixties, was gunned down by unknown assailants outside a mosque near his home and died after being rushed to the Golden Life American Hospital.
Moctar Ouane, Mali’s interim prime minister, said two assailants were involved.
The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a predominantly ethnic Tuareg coalition that rose up against the central government in 2012, had Ould Sidati as its rotating president.
“We have just lost our president … who was assassinated this morning in Bamako,” CMA spokesman Almou Ag Mohamed said on social media.
Both Ouane and the UN envoy in Mali shared their shock at the killing and praised Ould Sidati’s contribution to the peace process.
The CMA brought together Tuareg and nationalist Arab groups battling Mali’s government forces in the north before they signed the 2015 peace accord, including a faction headed by Ould Sidati.
The agreement, which is seen as critical to resolving Mali’s stalemate, has yet to be completely enforced in the former French colony.
When jihadists allied with separatists in the north, the insurgency began.
The rebellion then spread across central Mali, as well as Burkina Faso and Niger, killing thousands of people and displacing hundreds of thousands more.
Several anti-jihadist military operations have been conducted, including the French operation Barkhane and the G5 Sahel army, which consists of units from five African countries’ armies.
On the same day he was to meet with Ould Sidati to discuss reforms, Ouane said he was “stunned” by what he called “an abominable act.”
Ouane said Ould Sidati “was an important player in the peace process” and promised to investigate the shooting.
Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the UN representative in Mali, expressed “outrage” over the killing.
On social media, Ould Sidati described himself as “one of those Malians who truly believed in and worked for peace and unity in Mali.”
He said the late rebel leader was still seeking consensus in order to make the Malian peace process permanent.
The reason for his assassination in Bamako’s capital was not immediately clear.
However, it comes as Mali remains in shambles, with transitional authorities in charge of the country’s administration following a junta’s overthrow of a civilian government in August.
Former mayor of Ber, near the fabled city of Timbuktu, Ould Sidati was a key figure in the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), which was part of the CMA that he helped found.
In a statement, the CMA demanded that authorities conduct a “independent and transparent” investigation into the killing, as well as involving the UN mission in Mali (Minusma).
It also requested that its leaders be given more security.
The Malian government was responsible for Ould Sidati’s defense, according to Bilal ag Asherif, secretary general of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, another CMA member.
The assassination is likely to escalate Mali’s instability following a 2012 uprising that saw mutinous soldiers overthrow the president.
Since then, jihadists, militias, and drug dealers have killed thousands of people, mostly civilians. A political and social crisis has exacerbated the security situation.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN