First Published: 2013-01-24

 

Division seeps into ranks of key Mali Islamist group

 

One of main Islamist groups in Mali splits, with breakaway faction saying it is ready for talks to end two-week-old French-led offensive.

 

Middle East Online

By Serge Daniel – BAMAKO

Intalla chooses path of diplomacy

One of the main Islamist groups in Mali split Thursday, with the breakaway faction saying it was ready for talks to end a two-week-old French-led offensive, amid mounting concerns over rights abuses by government troops.

The first of the 6,000 troops pledged by African nations to support France's intervention started heading north, moving closer to the areas a triad of Al Qaeda-linked groups seized in April.

Cracks emerged in the rebel front however when a new faction announced it had broken away from Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith).

The newly-formed Islamic Movement for Azawad said in a statement that it "rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism and was committed to fighting them", adding that it wanted a "peaceful solution" to the Mali crisis.

The use of the Tamasheq term Azawad appeared to further signal a willingness among the group's Tuareg ranks to distance themselves from Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Malian insurgency's mainly foreign leadership.

The statement said the new group was composed entirely of Malian nationals and called on "Malian authorities and France to cease hostilities in the zones that we are occupying in the north-eastern regions of Kidal and Menaka to create a climate of peace which will pave the way for an inclusive political dialogue."

The new group is led by Alghabasse Ag Intalla, the scion of a leading Tuareg family from Kidal, and a former negotiator from the group's moderate wing.

West African and Algerian negotiators have for months been trying to get Ansar Dine to sever links with AQIM and its offshoot the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), essentially comprising foreign fighters.

The UN has authorised the deployment of a 3,300-strong force under the auspices of 15-nation West African bloc ECOWAS. The involvement of non-member Chad could boost the African deployment by another 2,000 soldiers.

Most of the estimated 1,000 African soldiers who have arrived in Mali are still in Bamako but a Malian defence source said a group of 160 troops from Burkina Faso had started making its way to central regions nearer the frontline.

Paris' surprise decision to intervene on January 11 received broad international support but reports of abuses by the Malian troops advancing in the wake of the French advance have caused concern.

The European Union said it was worried at reports that Tuaregs and Arabs had been killed by Malian forces, stoking fears of systematic reprisals against the region's light-skinned residents.

"We are very worried by reports evoking the possibility of ethnic attacks and fighting and abuses committed in revenge attacks," said EU humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva in remarks translated in French.

The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said that in the central town of Sevare at least 11 people were executed in a military camp near the bus station and the town's hospital, citing evidence gathered by local researchers.

Twenty others were executed in the same area and the bodies dumped in wells or otherwise disposed of, the organisation said, adding that two Tuaregs were executed by Malian soldiers in the central town of Niono.

The organisation called for an immediate independent inquiry to "determine the scale of the abuses and to punish the perpetrators".

Human Rights Watch said its investigators had spoken to witnesses who saw the executions of two Tuareg men in the village of Siribala, near Niono.

The group also said witnesses had reported "credible information" of soldiers sexually abusing women in a village near Sevare, and called on the government to urgently investigate these incidents.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged extreme "vigilance" against any abuses, saying the "honour of the (Malian) troops is at stake".

France said it had already deployed 2,300 soldiers in Mali, a former colony, whose poorly trained and equipped force has been overwhelmed by Islamist rebels occupying the vast arid north and seeking to push south.

International moves to support the French-led operation gathered pace, with the US military airlifting French troops and equipment from France into Mali.

Mali's year-old crisis began when Tuaregs returning from fighting for slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi in Libya, battle-hardened and with a massive arsenal, took up a decades-old rebellion for independence of the north, which they call Azawad.

They allied with hardline Islamists and seized the key towns of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu in a matter of days.

The Islamists later broke with their Tuareg allies, and with firm control of the north, implemented an extreme form of Islamic law.

 

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Hundreds protest in Iran after horrendous acid attacks

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Masdar to build first large-scale wind farm in GCC

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests

Rise of Shiite militias challenges government authority in Iraq

Syria Kurds show impressive resistance to ‘Islamic State’ in Kobane

Vote or boycott: Grim record of self-serving politicians puts off voters in Tunisia

Egypt universities tighten security to avoid new Islamist violence

Iran forces inside Iraq as Abadi rules out foreign ground intervention!

South Sudan rivals meet in new bid to end civil war

From Morocco into Spain: Crowd of African migrants charges to border fence

Deadly suicide attack targets Shiite mosque in central Baghdad

Turkey gives Iraq Peshmerga forces passage to Kobane

Israel to supply Egypt with natural gas despite sabotage

Kerry seeks help of Southeast Asia in anti-Islamic State push

Qaeda inflicts heavy losses on Huthi rebels in central Yemen

US carries out first weapon airdrops to Kurd fighters near Kobane

Benghazi violence kills 75 people in five days

Morocco accuses Algeria of firing on civilians across border

Australia finalises deal for deployment of Special Forces to Iraq

Tunisia calls on Libya authorities to locate missing journalists

Turkey rejects calls to arm ‘terrorist’ Kurdish party in Syria