UN, Ivorian & French troops on joint patrol near Mali border
-While MNLA rebels declare independence in northern Mali
The UN peacekeeping force in the Ivory Coast (UNOCI) has said it has increased joint patrols with French Licorne and the Ivorian armed forces along the Malian border, while rebels in northern Mali have announced a ceasefire and declared independence in a region called Azawad.UNOCI spokesman Sylvain Sémilinko told a news conference in Abidjan Thursday, that the joint patrol is in an effort to protect people and property, in wake of the ongoing armed conflict in Mali.
The UN peacekeeping force is also stepping up its joint patrol with the Ivorian army on Ivory Coast border with Liberia.
The move by the Malian rebel group to declare independence comes after the rebels seized control of the historic city of Timbucktu last weekend after capturing other areas in the north, since their rebellion last January.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) made the statement on its website, adding that it would respect other states' borders.
On Thursday, the rebels said that they were ceasing fire and would not extend their military operations beyond the areas they’ve captured
With the weekend’s capture of the historic city of Timbuktu, the MNLA rebels say they have now occupied the entire northern Mali.
A spokesman for rebels said with their territorial and military objectives achieved, the MNLA was preparing to declare an independent state of Azawad.
The Malian rebels launched their attacks last January.
Government soldiers staged a mutiny and eventually ousted the government of President Amadou Toumani Toure over two weeks ago, claiming that they were not given adequate weapons and logistics to crush the rebellion.
But since the coup, the rebels have made large gains capturing the entire northern belt. The last remaining northern city, Timbucktu fell to them last weekend.