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Mali forces clash with mutinous soldiers in Bamako

BAMAKO, Mali - Malian government forces clashed with mutinous soldiers in the capital Bamako on Friday, in violence which killed one person.

The clashes at a paratrooper base west of Bamako were a result of tensions between government soldiers, known as "green berets," and "red beret" paratroopers loyal to former President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was deposed in a 2012 coup.

Government forces surrounded the paratrooper base and sealed it off, a military official said. One person was killed, Malian military officials said.

"Red berets fired shots at the families of the green berets, who retaliated by setting alight one of their vehicles," witness Daouda Maiga told the German news agency dpa. "Some of the red berets were angry about orders that came from a commander, who wanted them to be reassigned to the green battalion."

Earlier, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Malian army checkpoint in the northern city of Gao, causing no other casualties, officials said.

The suicide bombing was the first such attack since France launched a military operation against Islamist rebels in January. Officials said a 16-year-old ethnic Tuareg detonated his motorbike laden with explosives at the checkpoint. He died in the attack.

Malian troops, backed by African and French forces, are advancing on several remaining Islamist rebel positions in the north.

On Friday, French and Chadian forces took control of Tessalit, a town in the north near the border with Algeria.

Meanwhile, an advance deployment of EU military staff arrived in Bamako to prepare for a training mission for the Malian army that the European Union is expected to launch later this month.

The 70-strong team was due to help rebuild the Malian army's chain of command as well as prepare for the arrival of EU trainers and support staff adding up to around 450 people.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels said their training mission, and the swift deployment of observers, would "help contribute to strengthening civilian authority, respecting international human law and promoting human rights."

They welcomed the "decisive" international action taken to restore Mali's territorial integrity and state authority, reiterated their commitment to African troops and called for an "inclusive national dialogue" as well as measures to "prevent further human rights violations."

The entire north of Mali fell to Islamist rebels after the military coup.

 

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