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Mali's Tuareg rebels claim capture of more military bases

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Fresh fighting broke out between Mali's army and northern Tuareg rebels on Sunday, with the rebels claiming to have taken control of two army bases in the central town of Lere.

The rebel alliance, called the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), has been fighting the army since August, a conflict unleashed in part by the departure of a United Nations peacekeeping mission that for years had helped maintain a fragile calm.

But clashes appear to be intensifying as both sides seek to control territory in the desert centre and north of the West African country, just as U.N. peacekeepers withdraw.

Last week, CMA, formed by semi-nomadic Tuareg people, said it had attacked four army positions around the town of Bourem and made away with vehicles, weapons and ammunition. Lere is about 500 km (315 miles) west of Bourem.

"CMA took control of the two camps in Lere," said CMA spokesman Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane.

Mali's armed forces said in a post on social media platform X late on Sunday that an attack had taken place in Lere and that a response was under way, without providing details.

Neither side said whether anyone had been killed or injured in the clashes.

The Tuaregs have long complained of government neglect and sought autonomy for the desert region they call Azawad.

A Tuareg uprising in 2012 was taken over by Islamist groups that continue to attack civilians and the army.

The CMA signed up to a peace deal with the government and pro-government militia in 2015. But tensions have resurfaced since the military consolidated power in two coups in 2020 and 2021, teamed up with Russian military contractor Wagner Group, and kicked out French forces and U.N. peacekeepers.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Sandra Maler)