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BBC News - Mali crisis: Who's who?

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Islamist Ansar Dine were the two major Tuareg groups involved in the takeover of the north of Mali - an area the size of France.

Other small groups have also taken part in the fighting, including the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).

Despite having very different aims, MNLA and Ansar Dine have joined forces to fight together from time to time, including in the capture of Timbuktu - but there are serious tensions between them, which have bubbled over into clashes between the two groups.

The MNLA grouping wants independence for the Tuareg's northern homeland, which it calls Azawad.

Two important figures in the MNLA are the general secretary Bila Ag Cherif and Mohamed Ag Najim, the head of the movement's military wing.

In the ranks of the MNLA are Malian Tuareg who, while in exile in Libya, fought alongside Col Gaddafi's forces as he tried to cling to power.

Once he was toppled, they returned to Mali, well-trained and with plenty of heavy weaponry.

But it is the Islamists of Ansar Dine and Mujao who now control all three of the region's main cities - Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.

Both Ansar Dine, led by a renowned former Tuareg rebel leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, and Mujao have taken part in the rebel sweep south in early 2013.

An Ansar Dine spokesman said they had entered the central town of Konna for "jihad [holy war]".

The group has ties to al-Qaeda's north Africa branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which specialises in taking Westerners hostage for ransom. There are unconfirmed reports of foreign jihadist fighters, possibly including Nigeria's Boko Haram, setting up training camps in rebel-held areas.

It's been reported that Iyad al Ghaly was killed during an air strike.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
has welcomed the French intervention :

Mali: le MNLA pret à "aider" la France - BBC Afrique - Afrique Mali: MNLA ready to help France - BBC Africa - Africa

Les rebelles touareg du Mouvement national pour la libération de l'Azawad sont "prêts à aider" l'armée française à lutter contre les groupes islamistes armés du nord du Mali.

Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad are "ready to help" the French army to fight against armed Islamist groups in northern Mali.
"Nous soutenons absolument l'intervention aérienne française. Bien sûr nous sommes prêts à aider l'armée française", a déclaré un responsable du MNLA, Moussa Ag Assarid. "We absolutely support the intervention French airline. Of course we are ready to help the French army," said an official of the MNLA, Moussa Ag Assarid.
"Nous sommes ceux qui pouvons faire le travail au sol. Notre rôle pourrait être principal" a-t-il assuré, affirmant que le MNLA disposait "des hommes, des armes, et surtout de la volonté d'arriver au bout du terrorisme dans l'Azawad"."We are the ones who can do the ground work. Our main role could be "he said, saying the MNLA had" men, weapons, and especially the desire to reach the end of terrorism in the Azawad. "

Which could turn the tables completely. The MNLA originally "liberated" north Mali from the Bamako government, then was overrun by the various Islamist groups and faded from the scene. But it's an open question whether they actually have a fighting force on the ground, as many have joined Islamist militias and others have left for Mauritania.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 08:16:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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