PARIS—Mali’s main Tuareg rebel group, which declared independence for the northern territory it conquered, said Friday it was ready to help fight the “terrorism” of Al-Qaeda’s African branch.
“The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) has clearly stated its demarcation from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its willingness to act within the framework of a mobilisation of all countries concerned by this curse,” its representative in Paris, Mossa Ag Attaher, told AFP.
He said AQIM’s “terrorism” was fostered by the “lack of action by the Malian state and the lack of hope for the people of the north who were mistreated or abandoned for decades.”
The MNLA on Friday declared independence in the north, a vast swathe of desert it calls Azawad, which it captured along with Ansar Dine, a much smaller group, over the past fortnight after a coup in the capital Bamako.
Ansar Dine, an Islamist group, subsequently took control of the city of Timbuktu. It says it rejects independence for the north and says it is fighting for Islam and to impose sharia law.
Security sources say that Ansar Dine has fallen under the influence of AQIM, the North African wing of the global extremist group, which is holding several Westerners hostage.