BAMAKO, July 4 (Xinhua) -- Al-Qaida's North African branch AQIM has sent dozens of fighters to Mali's northern town of Kidal to boost the separatist group MNLA, which recently signed a cease- fire agreement with the government, according to a local source.
Around 30 members of AQIM and Ansar Dine headed by Iyad Ag Ghaly arrived in the town of Kidal to reinforce the positions of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Supreme Council for Azawad Unity (HCUA), the witness reported on Wednesday, declining to be named because of the information sensitivity.
"The AQIM Islamists have continued to return to Kidal under the umbrella of MNLA. They include Moroccan fighters of Maoukhloufi group that is led by Nabil Makhloufi and they are going to resettle in tigharghar region," he said.
The mission of AQIM fighters is to help the MNLA and its allies to transport heavy weapons from Kidal and hide them in far away localities like Abeibara, Tin-Essako and Tigharghar, he added.
The move is meant to ensure that those weapons are not taken away during the disarmament operation soon to be launched by the UN Integrated Multidimensional Mission for Stabilization of Mali (MINUSMA).
The Tigharghar mountain ranges have been combed by Chadian soldiers in operations against rebels, who seemed to make a comeback following the withdrawal of the Chadian troops.
Meanwhile, the Ifoghas people in the town of Kidal and their allies are reported to harass the black community and other Tamasheq tribes loyal to the government. They are even preventing some of them from accessing Kidal, for fear that they will give intelligence information to the Malian army.
Mali plans to hold a presidential vote to end the crisis next month, after signing an agreement with the MNLA, which still holds Kidal. Other rebel groups including AQIM and Ansar have been driven out of northern towns since January, when Mali's former colonial ruler France and African allies helped route out the rebels occupying the north.
The rebels swept through northern Mali in the aftermath of a military coup On March 22, 2012.