|map by Evan Centanni (www.polgeonow.com)|
In a statement issued Thursday, the newly formed Islamic Movement for Azawad also said it is ready to fight extremism.
Ansar Dine rebels joined with ethnic Tuaregs to seize control of northern Mali following a March coup. Ansar Dine and other Islamist groups then took full control of the region, where they want to impose strict Islamic law.
In late December, Ansar Dine agreed to a cease-fire with the government, but suspended it earlier this month saying the government was not sincere about peace negotiations.
Islamist fighters began pushing south into government-controlled areas, prompting airstrikes from French forces acting at the request of Mali's government to halt the advance. French and Malian troops have retaken some rebel-held areas, while a growing African intervention force continues to arrive in Mali to help fully regain control of the north.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate panel Wednesday that instability in Mali has created an "expanding safe haven for terrorists" who are looking to extend their reach. She said the United States and its allies have been working with Mali's neighbors to upgrade security, but that most do not have the capacity to do so.
Clinton said eliminating rebels from northern Mali is a daunting challenge.
"This is going to be a very serious ongoing threat because if you look at the size of northern Mali, if you look at the topography, it is not only desert, it is caves - sounds reminiscent. We are in for a struggle but it is a necessary struggle. We can not permit northern Mali to become a safe haven," she said.
Also Wednesday, a coalition of rights groups said it has reports that Malian soldiers have carried out executions and committed other human rights violations since French forces entered the country this month.
The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said elements of the Malian army carried out executions in the towns of Sevare, Mopti and Nioro on January 10. It is calling for the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the allegations.
from VOA News
January 24, 2013