As African Coalition Enters Mali, Rebels Splinter

Branch of al-Qaeda-linked group calls for peace talks
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2013 9:34 AM CST
As African Coalition Enters Mali, Rebels Splinter
A Malian soldier takes position in the outskirts of Sevare, Mali, some 385 miles north of Bamako yesterday.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

(Newser) – Less than two weeks after France started airstrikes in rebel-held Mali, and a day after thousands of African coalition troops began to enter the country, one rebel faction has broken away from Islamic militants and called for peace talks, reports the AP. One wing of al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine, calling itself Islamic Movement for the Azawad, said it "rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism and was committed to fighting them." A Mali official said that many of Ansar Dine's followers were just political and economic allies, not true radicals. "They never believed in this ideology. Now they are running for the exits," said the official.

Meanwhile, concern is growing over accusations that Malian troops have been summarily killing suspected Islamists, with executions of 11 and 20 people reported in the central town of Sevare, reports Deutsche Welle. With many of the rebels being ethnic Tuaregs and Arabs but the Mali army largely black, observers worry the fighting could grow into an ethnic conflict. "We are very worried by reports evoking the possibility of ethnic attacks and fighting and abuses committed in revenge attacks," said an EU humanitarian aid official, according to the AFP. (Read more Mali stories.)

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