Battle of Aguelhok

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Battle of Aguelhok
Part of the Tuareg rebellion (2012) and Mali conflict
Aguel 48.JPG
A road in Aguelhok.
Date 17–25 January 2012
(1 week and 1 day)
Location Aguelhok, Mali
Result Indecisive; Strategic Malian Army Victory
  • Over 93 Malian soldiers are summarily executed
  • Aguelhok base is captured; later reclaimed by Malian forces
 Mali  Azawad
  • MNLA (Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad)

AQIM (Al-Qeada in the Islamic Maghreb)
Commanders and leaders
Mali Sékou Traoré  [1][2] Azawad Moussa Ag 'Bamoussa'
Iyad Ag Ghaly
200 unclear
Casualties and losses
93-133 killed[3][4]
(82-97 executed)[5][6]
  • 93+ executed
  • 9 captured
4 killed[7]

On 18 January 2012, MNLA Independence members launched an attack on a strategic Malian garrison base in the regional town of Aguelhok situated in the Kidal Region of Northern Mali. For 6 days the garrison was held off from any contact with the military until the MNLA backed by Islamists terrorists launched a decisive assault on the garrison on 25 January in which 100 captured-Malian Army soldiers were summarily executed after running out of ammunition. The base was soon-after abandoned to Malian troops the next day.[5]

On the early morning of 18 January, at the very beginning of the 2012 Tuareg rebellion, the Malian military base in Aguelhok is attacked by fighters from a specialist movement known as the MNLA. The assault on the military base begins at 3:30 a.m. when MNLA forces led by a defected Malian army colonel known by his colleagues as "Bamoussa" split into small groups each one infiltrating the town and finding favorable positions on the roof-tops of buildings from where they can strafe the military base from above. The Malian army garrison is led by Malian army commander Sékou Traoré and 200 other new recruits from bases in the southern part of the country. The garrison has no experience in battle and are considered foreign by villagers. The Malian garrison stays in the base to protect available assets. Ammunition is extremely low. The telephone communication system is supposedly cut off by the attacking forces preventing any calls for army reinforcements from getting through. The garrison is able to repulse the MNLA's assault by the use of armored personnel carriers that are able to push back the attackers. The attack is later deemed a failure by the Malian army who say they inflicted "heavy casualties" on the attackers. At least one Malian soldier was killed.[8][9]

On 20 January, pleas for supplies and reinforcements to relieve the garrison in Aguelhok make it through to the military base in Gao which organizes a convoy under the jurisdiction of Malian Army Colonel Mohammed Ould Meydou, who is the leader of a local self-defense force based in Timbuktu known as FLNA, a secular Arab Movement that opposes the Independence of Azawad from Mali. The convoy consists of about 40 light vehicles, including technicals equipped with heavy weapons, and nevertheless armored personnel carriers, all of which is destined to the garrison in Aguelhok. In addition the convoy carries essential military resources such as ammunition vital to its defense. Shortly after the convoy departs Gao they are ambushed about 15 km south of the Aguelhok by MNLA rebels and forced to turn back. Several military vehicles were abandoned in addition to 10 soldiers and militiamen being killed and 25 others being captured. While two MNLA members were lightly wounded.[5][6][10]

Six days after the Malian army base in Aguelhok is attacked, rebel forces including Islamists terror groups launch an assault on the garrison at 5:00 a.m. This time the army garrison is soon overwhelmed in numbers and short of resources such as ammunition that they are forced to surrender the base. The captured soldiers were rounded up, disarmed and had their hands tied behind their backs. Some were blindfolded. Allegedly MNLA members along with Islamists rebels participated in the massacre of the entire garrison in vain including its commander Sékou Traoré. The participants used the same methodology as al-Qaeda style tactics in the implementation of the murders. Soldiers were shot at close range or had their throats slit. The summarily execution was witnessed by many civilians who later testified that the soldiers were simply killed in cold blood. A Malian officer who was spared by his apprehenders was forced to bury the dead, he testified to personally burying 97 bodies of murdered soldiers into one mass grave. Nine captured-soldiers were later induced in a video where a soldier identifying himself as Coporal Hassan from the 7th Gao Company, says in the video: "We are 30 prisoners--two Tuareg, four Arab, and others from the south". "We are in the hands of Ansar Dine after the battle in Aguelhok". Malian military spokesmen Colonel Idriss Traoré later commented that 93 captured soldiers were killed.[7][9]

The next day, rebel forces withdrew from Aguelhok and abandoned the military base after bombardment of the barracks was conducted by Malian aircraft. Malian reinforcements under the command of Colonel El Haji Ag Gamou entered Aguelhok via Kidal mid-afternoon without any resistance. Dozens of soldiers' corpses were found lying on the streets along with the military base looted and armored vehicles torched. Around 41 soldiers bodies were discovered in an open pit. A Malian official told AFP that only soldiers were executed and not civilians. While the exact motive for the executions is unclear MNLA officials reported as saying that the killings were in vindication for murders of Tuareg civilians at the hands of the Malian Army.[5][6][7]

Prior to its formal investigation in Mali, the International Criminal Court stated that, "Based on the information available, the Aguelhok incident appears grave enough to justify further action by the Court." The Malian president Amadou Toumani Toure said during a conference on 15 March about the incident,[11]

"The garrison had no more ammo and it was impossible to transport reinforcements. The soldiers who fought valiantly were captured. When MNLA left the scene we discovered a tragedy. 70 of our young people were lined up on the floor. Blacks had their wrists tied behind his back. They were killed by bullets fired at close range in the head. Those who had white skin, Arabs and Tuaregs slaughtered and gutted. It is a war crime. I am surprised by the silence of international organizations on these atrocities. What does the International Criminal Court do? Nothing. A commission of inquiry was tasked to submit a dossier to the Malian justice. MNLA who claimed victory bears a heavy responsibility, but we know that the largest contingent of the group was composed primarily of people of AQIM. "


Anger over what exactly happened that led to the resignation of the bases' defenders. Soldiers testimonies of running out of ammunition brought to question the government's handling over the rebellion. France and other world countries denounced the incident as "absolutely atrocious and unacceptable violence". The MNLA later stated that none of their members were participants in the massacre of unarmed captured soldiers and that they treat their captives according to the Geneva convention. The 9 soldiers spared during the massacre were later let free on a vow to never fighting "Sharia Islam".[8]


  1. ^ 52nd anniversary of the Army: TWO MILITARY AWARDS VALEUREUX
  2. ^ IC publications (18 February 2013). "Islamists fighters call for Sharia law in Mali". Retrieved 2013-02-18. 
  4. ^ Herve Bisseleua, Shefa Siegel, Allison Greenberg (12 April 2012). "Making sense of Mali". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 23 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Mali says soldiers, civilians executed during Tuareg clashes
  6. ^ a b c "Tuareg rebels behind January killings, confirms Mali army". Radio France International. 13 February 2012. Archived from the original on 23 November 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c {{cite web|url= |title=Mali Besieged by Fighters Fleeing Libya |publisher=Stratfor |accessdate=22 March 2012 |archivedate=23 November 2012|archiveurl= |deadurl=no}}
  8. ^ a b "Mali capital paralysed by anti-rebellion protests". Reuters. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ "Mali rebels push south to open third front". Reuters. 27 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "Situation in Mali - Article 53(1) Report" (PDF). International Criminal Court. 2013-01-16. Archived from the original on 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2013-01-21. 

Coordinates: 19°27′54″N 0°51′18″E / 19.4650°N 0.8550°E / 19.4650; 0.8550