Militants in Mali Preparing For War Against Al-Qaeda

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The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in northern Mali is preparing to wage war against al-Qaeda, who they see as standing in the way of their mission to liberate the north of the country from the central government. Samira Mouaki reports on the changing allegiances of militant groups in Mali.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in northern Mali is preparing to wage war against al-Qaeda and the gangs loyal to it. MNLA elements have asked Azawadi tribes to ally with them and declare war on al-Qaeda. They believe that al-Qaeda is preventing their victory over the Malian army and impeding the liberation of northern Mali from the government, whose control they see as colonial legacy.

The MNLA fighters have asserted that they will continue on the path of resistance and liberate northern Mali, which was occupied by militants affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who were able to impose their control over several areas. They added that they were waiting for orders from their leaders to open fire on the pro-al-Qaeda extremist movements in northern Mali.

Militants interviewed by El-Khabar at a training camp and former military barracks belonging to the ministry of finanace in the Al-Khalil financial district said that they were fully prepared to start a war against al-Qaeda despite their lack of resources. They said, ''We were able to defeat the Malian army and we can also eliminate these extremist terrorist brigades.''

The MNLA fighters did not conceal their desire for members of the Ansar Dine Islamist movement to join their ranks, since it is an active force in the region. The movement was also granted the right to lead operations and to serve as a coordinator for actions by various brigades. But the alliance the fighters are talking about will not see the light of day unless Malian religious leader Iyad Ag Ghali abandons his extremist stance regarding the application of Islamic law.

The activists said that they possess a large stock of weapons and missiles, which were moved a few days ago to safer warehouses.

Ag Ghali, a senior Tuareg elder, has called on the leaders of the Ansar Dine movement to come to the negotiating table. The movement initially declined this offer, but as a result of recent developments, they agreed to attend a meeting that will include all Tuareg tribes next Saturday [September 8].

According to Ansar Dine member Moussa Antala, the initial rejection of the group — which pursued militancy after defecting from the MNLA for several reasons — came as a result of the growing differences and lack of common ground between the two sides. He added that the movement had to adjust its hardline position following the news of the killing of the Algerian diplomat. As a result of this killing, followers of Ag Ghali rushed to express their desire to talk with the Azawadis, feeling that the MNLA wanted to pull the rug out from under their feet.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The headline and summary for this article originally stated that the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) is an Islamist group. The NMLA has denied having links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other militant Islamist groups. While it has sought alliances with Ansar Dine, another Islamist group, the NMLA says its own orientation is secular and political, not religious. Al-Monitor regrets the error.

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Found in: tuareg tribes, tuareg, mali, iyad ag ghali, azawad region, ansar al-din, al-qaeda
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