Mali Islamist group splits, faction leader wants talks

DAKAR Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:48pm IST

Related Topics

Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

DAKAR (Reuters) - A faction of one of the armed Islamist groups occupying the north of the Mali has split off from its al Qaeda allies and says it is willing to hold talks with the government, the leader of the new group said on Thursday.

Alghabass Ag Intallah, a senior member of the Tuareg-led Ansar Dine group which helped seize northern Mali last year from government forces, said he had created a new organisation, the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA), and was ready to seek a negotiated solution to Mali's conflict.

A French-led military operation is underway in Mali to drive back the Islamist fighters who launched a surprise push southward toward the capital Bamako two weeks ago. An African ground force is being deployed to support French and Malian troops.

"We want to wage our war and not that of AQIM," Ag Intallah said by telephone, referring to al Qaeda's North African wing which has been at the heart of the takeover of the vast desert north by Malian and foreign Islamist fighters.

"There has to be a ceasefire so there can be talks," he said, speaking from the town of Kidal, a Tuareg stronghold in northeast Mali seized by Ansar Dine last year. "The aim is to speak about the situation in the north."

He said the new group, which would be based in Kidal, had been in touch with mediators in Burkina Faso and Algerian authorities. He said rebel demands would be for a broad autonomy rather than independence for the north.

Ansar Dine had formed a loose alliance with AQIM and a third group, MUJWA, to impose sharia Islamic law in the desert and mountain area the size of Texas.

It was not immediately possible to confirm how many fighters would leave the ranks of Ansar Dine to join the new group.

International negotiators have long sought to prize apart the Islamist alliance by offering talks to Ansar Dine and Tuareg separatists, on the condition that they broke with AQIM. Ag Intallah was a senior Ansar Dine negotiator in talks last year.

But preliminary negotiations broke down last month after Ansar Dine called off a ceasefire, amid reports of splits between moderates seeking a political solution and radicals with deep links to al Qaeda.

Ag Intallah would not give a figure for his supporters, as he said a list was still being drawn up, but he said most Malians in the ranks of Ansar Dine had joined his faction.

Estimates for the total number of Islamist fighters in Mali vary but do not exceed roughly 3,000.

Ag Intallah said some members of the Tuareg separatist MNLA movement, which has fought AQIM in the north, had also joined his group.

A spokesman for the MNLA was not immediately available for comment.

(Editing by Daniel Flynn and Pascal Fletcher)

FILED UNDER:

SAARC Summit

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ferguson Riots

Ferguson Riots

National Guard, police curb Ferguson unrest as protests swell across U.S.  Full Article 

Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong riot police clear protest site, arrest student leaders.  Full Article 

Special Report

Special Report

Putin's allies channelled billions to Ukraine oligarch.  Full Article 

Polls 2016

Polls 2016

Romney tops Republican poll for '16; ahead of Clinton in election.  Full Article 

Syrian Crisis

Syrian Crisis

Russia vows support for Syria's Assad to combat "terrorism".  Full Article 

Tackling Jihadis

Tackling Jihadis

INSIGHT - Secular France moves to confront jihadism after slow start.  Full Article 

Award Backlash

Award Backlash

Save the Children under pressure, 100,000 oppose award for Tony Blair.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage