Bamako — One of the Islamist groups fighting in northern Mali has split and wants dialogue to end a two-week-old French-led offensive, amid mounting concerns over rights abuses by government troops, a statement from the breakaway faction says.
Alghabass Ag Intallah, a senior member of the Tuareg-led Ansar Dine group which helped seize northern Mali last year from government forces, said he had created a new organisation, the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA), and was ready to seek a negotiated solution to Mali's conflict.
The newly-formed Movement said in a statement that it "rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism and was committed to fighting them", adding that it wanted a "peaceful solution" to the Mali crisis.
The statement said the new group was composed entirely of Malian nationals and called on "Malian authorities and France to cease hostilities in the zones that we are occupying in the north-eastern regions of Kidal and Menaka to create a climate of peace which will pave the way for an inclusive political dialogue."
Ag Intallah told AP news agency the IMA was linked to neither al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) nor the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), two groups which control large swathes of northern Mali and are led by an Algerian and a Mauritanian respectively.
"We are not terrorists. We are ready to negotiate."