Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tuareg rebels in Mali support French intervention

The Tuareg rebels who want an independent state of Azawad in northern Mali are ready to support French military intervention to help combat Islamic rebels in the north.
Contrary to my report in an earlier article, the rebels in northern Mali are not all united against the French military intervention. Moussa Ag Assarid, a representative of the Azawad National Liberation Movement, said:
"We're ready to help, we are already involved in the fight against terrorism. We can do the job on the ground. We've got men, arms and, above all, the desire to rid Azawad of terrorism."
After a coup in March of 2012, the Tuareg were able to capture much of the north. On April 6 2012, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. A declaration of Independence was signed but no foreign government recognized the state. Over the next month or so, the MNLA lost territory to Islamists. One group that contested territory with the MNLA was Ansar Dine led by former Tuareg fighter Ilya Ag Ghaly. Although the MNLA and Ansar Dine declared on May 26 that they would merge to form an Islamist state, conflict continued. Towards the end of June 2012, Ansar Dine claimed control of all the cities in northern Mali. The MNLA, very much weakened, tried to negotiate a form of self-rule with the central government. . The Tuareg now expect the Malian government to allow the French to help them defeat the Islamists and as a reward give them autonomy in the north. They also demand that the Malian army stay out of the territory until an agreement is reached. An MNLA official said:
"We don't want to see the Malian army in Azawad without a prior accord between the two parties. We are ready for talks aimed at finding a solution."
It is not clear that the MNLA has much sway now on the ground. The group is accused of raping and pillage in its earlier takeover of the north. The MNLA made the mistake of selling weapons to the Islamists. Some of the Tuareg had fought for Gadaffi and when he was overthrown moved into Mali bringing weapons with them.

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