A top commander serving in one of Mali's powerful pro-government militias was murdered in the country's northeast, sources told AFP today, with two suspects in custody. Almadi Ag Lengach -- the military chief of the Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group known by the French acronym GATIA -- was slain at home in Menaka, one of its fighters told AFP. "(Ag Lengach) was killed at home by armed men who then ran off," said GATIA member Mohamed Ag Ouleg. A Malian security source said the assassins scaled the walls of Ag Lengach's house to evade his security detail before killing him. Two security sources reached by AFP confirmed that two suspects were in custody. The GATIA, which supports the central government in Bamako, signed a 2015 peace deal with state authorities and members of the country's former rebel alliance that is aimed at quelling uprisings in the north. A 2012 rebellion by the Tuareg-led rebels was hijacked by jihadists who then seized control of key northern cities, triggering an international military intervention the following year. Since the peace deal aimed at ending the conflict, the GATIA has been accused of multiple ceasefire violations, and in September last year US ambassador to Mali Paul Folmsbee told the government it should "sever all ties" with the group. Militias like the GATIA operate in areas where Mali's army is absent or has a very limited presence, and patrols areas within its control.
Menaka residents told AFP Ag Lengach was an important figure in the city's security apparatus. Ag Lengach's murder comes as the country struggles to implement key elements of the peace deal including temporary regional bodies charged with organising elections when security can be assured for voters. The interim authorities, as they are known, were put into place on March 2 in Menaka but remain absent in the restive city of Timbuktu, where armed groups have also clashed repeatedly. Jihadists continue to roam the country's north and east, mounting attacks on civilians and the army, as well as French and UN forces still stationed in the country.
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