AFP, FRANCE 24 (France), REUTERS
BAMAKO- Two weeks after the start of the French military intervention in Mali, the Ansar Dine Islamist militant group has split into two, with the dissident faction calling for peace negotiations.
The dissident group is calling itself the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA) according to France 24.
In a statement, the MIA said they "rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism and was committed to fighting them," adding that it wanted a "peaceful solution" to the Mali crisis, reports the AFP.
The statement said the newly formed group was composed entirely of Malian nationals and called on Mali and France to cease hostilities in the zones it was occupying in the northeastern regions of Kidal and Menaka "to create a climate of peace which will pave the way for an inclusive political dialogue".
It is not clear how many fighters have left the Ansar Dine rebels to join MIA, however, France 24 reports that Alghabass Ag Intallah, a senior member of the Ansar Dine who helped seize Mali last year from government forces, is the leader of the new group.
According to the AFP, French planes destroyed two Islamist bases in northern Mali overnight, as well as their fuel stock and armory. More than 2,000 soldiers from Chad and 500 troops from Niger are being deployed in Niger near the Mali border, to open a second front against the Islamists as part of a 6-000 strong African force to boost – and eventually take over – the French intervention.
Most of the African troops for the UN-mandated intervention come from member countries of the West African regional grouping ECOWAS, such as Benin, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Niger, according to Reuters. There are also troops from neighboring Burkina Faso as well as Burundi and Chad.
News of the French and African advances has been overshadowed by allegations that Malian government soldiers have executed Tuaregs and Arabs accused of collaborating with the rebels, reports Reuters. International observers are worried that this could trigger an ethnic bloodbath.
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