Dutch forces serving as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali have conducted an air strike against a convoy of Tuareg rebels killing 5 fighters. The spokesman for MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad), Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, has decried the attack as an ill-conceived political error. The Tuareg rebels were advancing against pro-government militia stationed at Tabankort.
The strike is likely to complicate the current negotiations between Bamako and a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups. France and the UN have been able to prop up the weak Malian government against an emboldened Tuareg insurgency which has successfully overrun several government military bases in the north of the country. Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the lawless nature of Northern Mali to set up bases in the region.
The UN peacekeepers are mandated to protect civilians, even if the use of force is necessary. Netherlands has stationed four Apache combat helicopter and 380 fighters in Mali as part of the multinational UN Peacekeeping Force.