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Monday, August 03, 2009

Mali's Norther Tribes Joing with the Government to Fight Al Qaeda

BAMAKO — Leaders of Mali's northern communities agreed Sunday to join the government's fight against Al-Qaeda at their first meeting in a decade, called in a bid to end their conflicts, a participant said.

The meeting brought together representatives from the Tuareg, Arab and Songhai communities of the northwest African country's three regoins.

"It is a reconciliation meeting -- a first in 10 years," said Moussa Maiga, a representative of the Gao region.

"We have also decided to support the Malian government's fight against Al-Qaeda in the Sahel-Sahara strip," Maiga said.

The meeting, which started Saturday, included regional elected officials, prominent members of the community and tribal chiefs in efforts to resolve past conflicts that have on occasion led to deadly clashes.

"We are all insisting on reconciliation after moments of incomprehension," Amed Ag Mahmoud, a regional figure and moderator of the meeting, told AFP.

Mali's arid north has also been the scene of battles between government forces and Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the terror network's north African branch, which has extended its activities beyond Algeria.

President Amadou Toumani Toure announced last month a "total struggle" against the AQIM.
According to Mali's army, dozens of people were killed on July 4 during clashes in the Timbuktu region between the army and AQIM fighters.

And on June 17, the Malian army announced that it had killed 26 "Islamist fighters" in the far north of the country.

In recent months, the AQIM has taken four European tourists and two Canadian diplomats hostage in Mali and neighbouring Niger. All have been released, except for a British tourist, Edwin Dyer, who was executed.

The Rest @ AFP

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