In a statement posted to their website, Tuareg rebels in Mali have announced they will end fighting at midnight tonight.In the statement, the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) say that they have captured enough land to form their own state, as has been the aim of the decades long Tuareg independence movement.
The announcement is the latest twist in the increasingly confusing tale of Mali’s military coup, which began on March 22 when a group of military leaders seized power in the country, arguing that the civilian government had been too soft on the rebels, the BBC reports.
Ironically, the situation ended up being a blessing for the rebels, who were able (with the help of their Islamist allies) to take the historic northern town of Timbuktu and much of the North of the state.
Since March the military junta has been criticised by the international community for the coup, VOA reports, and the latest reports suggest that the civilian political parties are refusing to attend discussions to form a new government.
France, the former colonial power in Mali, has said that there will be no military solution to the situation, calling instead for negotiation, AFP reports, while US military and state leaders met with neighbouring Algerian leaders this week.
There is also a more troubling angle, however.
The Tuareg rebel’s Islamist allies, Ansar Dine, have not called for an end to fighting at the time of writing. They have different aims to the Tuareg rebels, calling for Sharia law rather than an independent state, and the BBC reports that they have links with Al Qaeda.
What’s more, the allies may be splitting.
The latest AFP reports suggest that Ansar Dine (which means “Defenders of Faith”) have chased Tuareg rebels from Timbuktu, forcing women to wear headscarves and cutting off the hands of thieves. Three Algerian members Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) are also said to have been spotted in the city.
The worry? That this multi-faceted conflict could result in a new rogue state.
UPDATE 9:41 AM ET: The rebels have declared their independence with the creation of the state of Azawad in the northern part of Mali, Reuters reports. France has dismissed the move, which has also left many Malians unimpressed.
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