With France bearing down, key rebel in Mali splits from Islamists

by ptinti

CS Monitor

A prominent member of Ansar Dine, an Islamist militant group that recently overran northern Mali, announced that he and his fighters were breaking with the group.

BAMAKO, MALI: In an apparent sign of internal conflict among one of the Islamist rebel groups controlling northern Mali, a prominent Ansar Dine member, Alghabass Ag Intallah, told the Associated Press Thursday that he and his men were breaking from the group “so that we can be in control of our own fate.”

The split suggests that at at least some of the fighters within Ansar Dine’s ranks have changed their posture since the start of French air strikes in central and northern Mali. With French air power and ground units weighing in on the side of the Malian government, the momentum of the conflict has shifted away from the once-surging Islamist forces.

But it remains to be seen how many fighters will follow Mr. Ag Intallah away from Ansar Dine and what future role they might play in a conflict that has become increasingly factionalized.

“We are not terrorists. We are ready to negotiate,” Ag Intallah told AP. “We are neither AQIM or MUJAO,” referencing Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO is its acronym in French). “We are a group of people from the north of Mali who have a set of grievances that date back at least 50 years.”

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