Mali Tuaregs, Islamist rebels agree to merge, create new state (Reuters)
Mali’s Tuareg rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Ansar Dine Islamist militants have agreed to merge and create an independent Islamic state in the north of the country, a rebel spokesman said on Saturday.
The deal between MNLA, which has said it wants an independent secular state in the north, and the al Qaeda-linked Salafist Ansar Dine, which had wanted to impose Sharia across Mali, may complicate international efforts to stabilise Mali after a March coup that plunged the country into chaos.
“The agreement reached this evening will see the merging of the two movements – the MNLA and Ansar Dine – to create an independent Islamic state,” MNLA spokesman Mohamed Ag Attaher told Reuters by phone from Gao, in the north of Mali where the deal was signed.
UPDATE – Mali rebels split over sharia in new state
An agreement between northern Mali’s MNLA Tuareg rebels and the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Ansar Dine to create an Islamic state in the Azawad desert has hit trouble over how strictly to impose sharia, Islamic law, MNLA sources said on Tuesday.
The separatist MNLA wants a moderate form of sharia, while Ansar Dine would like to impose a more hardline version, using punishments such as the amputation of hands and heads for certain crimes, the sources said. (…)
“We want sharia similar to that in Mauritania or even Egypt. This point must be clarified,” Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, an MNLA official in the northern city of Gao, told Reuters by telephone. (…)
A second MNLA source confirmed that a disagreement had emerged, centred on what form of sharia to impose. “The strict application of sharia, for example by cutting off hands, we don’t agree with,” the second source said.
An Ansar Dine official was not available, but the group has said it wants to impose a strict version of sharia in Mali and would be willing to cut off hands and heads if the Koran required it.
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