Mali Rebels Split in Two, Then Ask For Peace Talks

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A splinter group of Islamic militants have broken away from the main force of rebels in Mali and now says it wants peace talks with the government. According to Al Jazeera, the newly formed splinter group is calls itself the "Islamic Movement of Azawad" and claims to reject "all forms of terrorism" and also wants to distance itself from the foreign fighters who have poured in to the country hoping to make it a safe haven for criminals. They group claims to be made entirely of Malian citizens, setting them apart from the influence of outside groups.

The move is believed to be a "survival tactic" after heavy losses inflicted by the French military since they entered the conflict this month. The split is also believed to be essentially an ideological one, as the larger rebel force—known as Ansar Dine—was never fully united by the idea of Islamic radicalism, but was more an alliance of convenience  One local official says that most of the members of the spliter group were co-opted by Ansar Dine for economic or political reasons, but now that the rebels have been pushed back, "they are running for the exits." 

Ansar Dine still controls large portions of Northern Mali, but has been driven out of most of the larger town and cities since the army's reinforcement from France. (Solider from neighboring Chad and Burkina Faso have also joined the fight on the side of the government.) Unfortunately, those native Malian forces have also been accused of handing out violent reprisals and even summary executions of captured rebels. The fight is far from over, but Islamic Movement of Azawad may be sensing an ugly ending for their side and are hoping to save some influence for themselves in the future—and maybe save their necks as well.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.