Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Militants in Mali Seek Peace after U.N. Backs Force Vow to 'Refrain ... from Hostilities'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Militants in Mali Seek Peace after U.N. Backs Force Vow to 'Refrain ... from Hostilities'

Article excerpt

BAMAKO, Mali -- The al-Qaida-linked group that controls much of northern Mali and other rebels agreed Friday to cease hostilities in the areas they control, a day after the United Nations backed a regional plan to oust the Islamists from power in a military intervention next year.

Ansar Dine, which controls the northern cities of Timbuktu and Kidal, and a secular rebel group known as the NMLA made the concessions following talks in neighboring Algeria. The two groups vowed "to refrain from all actions that would cause confrontation and hostilities in the areas that they control." They also vowed to work to free hostages in northern Mali, where al-Qaida's North Africa branch has made millions of dollars through ransoms and is now holding seven French nationals captive.

The United Nations' most powerful body on Thursday authorized an African-led force, but made no mention of size and set no timeline for military action. U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous recently said he does not expect a military operation to begin until September or October of next year.

Ansar Dine had previously met with government representatives in talks facilitated by the Burkina Faso government. As a result, other militants in the north have sought to join Ansar Dine recently, including members of the secular NMLA group.

Malians living under the grip of al-Qaida-linked militants expressed dismay Friday that it could be nearly a year before a regional military intervention to oust the Islamists from power. "We want rapid military action to liberate our cities," said Alphadi Cisse, who lives in Timbuktu. "There is no school, there is no work and no money. We are fed up with this situation."

The mayor of Timbuktu, which is controlled by Ansar Dine, has described conditions there as "a living hell." The al-Qaida-linked militants have imposed their version of strict Islamic law known as Shariah. …

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