December 20, 2016 / 6:08 PM / 8 months ago

Mali's Tuareg rebels withdraw from committee implementing peace deal

DAKAR (Reuters) - The main separatist group in northern Mali, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), has suspended its participation in a committee charged with implementing a 2015 peace accord, according to a statement seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The document, dated Dec. 19 and signed by CMA President Alghabass Ag Intalla, an elder of the Tuareg ethnic group cited rising violence and a lack of progress on reforms among other reasons for its decision.

However, in a sign that the suspension might be temporary, Ag Intalla also called for a high-level encounter with mediators in order "to save the accord and preserve the credibility of the process".

A statement on Twitter from a branch of the CMA group said it would continue to participate in security aspects of the peace process, without giving details.

A Tuareg rebellion in 2012 that sought to create a new state called Azawad was hijacked by al Qaeda-linked militants who seized major towns in Mali's north and established sharia law.

French troops drove them out a year later but they continue to launch deadly attacks from desert hideouts and have spread into areas once considered safe, despite efforts by a 13,000-strong U.N. force to keep them at bay.

Many among the minority Tuareg and Arab populations in the north complain that little has been done to address the root causes of the rebellion such as poverty, a lack of investment and exclusion from the southern-based Bamako government.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Alison Williams

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