Mali's Tuareg Rebels To Hold Talks With Islamist Group

Mali's Tuareg MNLA group, holding the country's vast north with Al-Qaeda and Islamists, will soon hold formal talks with the armed Islamist Ansar Dine group, an MNLA official told AFP on Wednesday.
Reacting to Ansar Dine's pledge to no longer seek to impose sharia across the country, Mossa Ag Attaher hailed it as a "very encouraging step" and added that "formal talks with the Ansar Dine will be held in coming days."

He said this would help those fighting for an independent Tuareg homeland "to speak in one voice."

Ansar Dine, one of the armed Islamist groups occupying northern Mali after a March coup in Bamako, said Wednesday it does not want to impose Islamic law across the entire country, but still wants to keep it in its stronghold of Kidal. It also vowed to rid the area of "terrorism" and "foreign groups."

Ag Attaher said this was an "extra step which responds to what the MNLA, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States regional bloc), and the international community want."

The Ansar Dine, the main Islamist group in Mali which has links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), currently occupies the sparsely populated Kidal region in the northeast.
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