In Mali, Wagner raises its flag over the Kidal fort

A week after entering Kidal, the stronghold of the pro-independence rebels, Russian mercenaries flew their black flag over the town's fort. A symbolic gesture that contradicts the official line of Assimi Goïta's regime, which praises the Malian army.

Wagner flag

A brief video, posted on the Wagner group’s Telegram channel on November 22, succinctly captures the significant role played by Wagner’s mercenaries in reclaiming Kidal. In the footage, two mercenaries proudly raise a black flag adorned with a skull and crossbones over the town fort, labeled as “The flag of our orchestra,” one of the names adopted by the group.

The town’s recapture, announced by transitional authorities on November 14, marked a crucial victory for Colonel Assimi Goïta, emphasising national sovereignty and territorial reconquest since his ascent to power in a 2020 coup against Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.

Official narratives from Goïta and his ministers, as well as national television reports, make no reference to Wagner’s mercenaries, even avoiding the term “Russian instructors” typically used by Malian authorities. However, it is evident that the Russian mercenaries, led by the late Yevgeny Prigozhin, played a pivotal role in retaking Kidal from Tuareg-dominated independence fighters.

Images circulated on social media since November 14 depict Wagner’s men entering the town in armoured vehicles or on motorbikes. A Malian officer reveals, “Several army units were involved in the operation under the direct supervision of Wagner’s men, positioned at the front line in Kidal.” This leadership status is affirmed by the video capturing the flag-raising atop the Kidal fort, an event likely facilitated by the ascendancy Wagner’s mercenaries held over their Malian counterparts.

Preceding their entry into the town, Wagner’s mercenaries and the Malian military received crucial air support from Bayraktar TB2 drones and fighter jets, some piloted by Russians. These airstrikes effectively compelled Cadre Stratégique Permanent (CSP) fighters to abandon their positions.

The offensive on Kidal commenced on October 2, saw a large convoy of armoured vehicles and pick-ups departing the Gao camp at dawn. Nearly 600 soldiers and mercenaries from the Wagner group, already taking the lead, were on board, as noted by a Malian officer.

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