Mali rebel accord stumbles over shari'ah

2012-05-29 16:10

kalahari.com

Bamako - An agreement between northern Mali's MNLA Tuareg rebels and al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group Ansar Dine to create an Islamic state in the vast Azawad desert has run into trouble over how strictly to impose shari'ah law, MNLA sources said on Tuesday.

The separatist MNLA group wants a moderate form of shari'ah, while Ansar Dine is seeking to impose a more hardline version involving punishments that include the amputation of hands and heads for certain crimes, the sources said.

"We want shari'ah law similar to that in Mauritania or even Egypt. This point must be clarified," Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, an MNLA official in the northern city of Gao told Reuters by telephone.

He said MNLA leader Iyad Ag Ghali was on his way to Gao for talks with Ansar Dine leaders to salvage the pact, which was signed by representatives of the two groups last week.

A second MNLA source confirmed that a disagreement had emerged, centring on what form of shari'ah to impose. "The strict application of shari'ah, for example by cutting off hands, we don't agree with," the second source said.

An Ansar Dine official was not available, though the group has said it is seeking to impose a strict version of shari'ah in Mali and would be willing to cut off hands and heads if the Koran required it.

Mali, once a poster-child of African democracy, spiralled into chaos after soldiers toppled the president in March, allowing northern rebels to take control of nearly two-thirds of the country.

A regionally backed transitional government has been set up in Bamako to set new presidential elections within a year, though the plan has faced opposition from supporters of the ruling military junta.

Regional block Ecowas on Tuesday said it rejected the attempt by Mali's rebels to create an Islamic state in the north - a move that would complicate international efforts to resolve the country's crisis.

"Ecowas strongly condemns this opportunistic move, which will only worsen the plight of the populations already suffering atrocities and deprivation in the occupied Malian territory, and further threaten regional peace and security," it said.

Read more on:    ecowas  |  al-qaeda  |  mali  |  west africa  |  religion
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