Nouakchott — A one-time spokesman for Malian Islamist group Ansar al-Din said Wednesday (April 17th) that he was ready to turn himself in.
Sanda Ould Bouamama told ANI that he was close to the border between Mali and Algeria and was going to surrender to Algerian authorities.
"I have walked more than 80 kilometres on foot to reach the Algerian border so that I can surrender to the Algerian army," he said. "Right now I'm close to the Algerian town of Bordj Badji Mokhtar, where I intend to turn myself in to the Algerian army."
He added that on April 9th, unknown individuals attempted to assassinate him. Ould Bouamama previously served as the Timbuktu spokesperson for the radical Islamist group.
He asked Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and the Mauritanian government to "do everything possible to have me extradited to Mauritania so that I can be put on trial, given that I am a Mauritanian national".
This surrender comes as another serious blow to the terrorist groups, who have suffered huge losses since the French-led offensive in northern Mali began in January.
"It coincides with the arrest on April 16th by the Malian armed forces of 12 terrorists in Djebok, a locality situated about 100 km to the north-east of Gao," Jidou Ould Sidi, a journalist specialising in security said.
"Among the 12 terrorists who are being questioned is Mohamed Ag Ntaki, a MUJAO explosives expert who is believed by the Malian intelligence services to have been responsible for making and placing improvised explosive devices in the Gao region. He also laid mines in the region of Imenas and Talatai which hit ambulances belonging to the Serval force and the Malian army at the beginning of March," he added.
Arrest warrants were issued on April 12th for Touareg rebel leaders in the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the armed Islamist groups Ansar al-Din, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), David Dembele, a writer for the newspaper Dépêches du Mali said.
They stand accused of offences including terrorism and sedition, he said.
Dembele added that 26 people were subject to international arrest warrants issued by the prosecutor-general at Bamako Court of Appeal.
The wanted men include MNLA Secretary-General Bilal Ag Acherif, Ansar al-Din leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, Oumar Ould Hamaha, Sidi Mohamed Ould Bouamama alias Sanda Ould Bouamama, and MUJAO member and suspected drug trafficker Cherif Ould Attaher alias Cherif Ould Tahar.
Alghabasse Ag Intalla, who belongs to one of the large Touareg clans in the region of Kidal, is among the men claimed to be members of Ansar al-Din. However, since January 24th he has led the Azawad Islamic Movement (MIA).
"The arrests of leaders such as Mohamed Moussa Ag Mouhamed, who is regarded as the third most senior man in Ansar al-Din, and Oumeini Ould Baba Ahmed, a high-ranking leader of MUJAO, have been very costly for the jihadists, who are unquestionably in disarray," Ould Sidi said.