Mali will recover lost territory – minister

2012-07-03 10:24
A still from a video shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu. (AFP)

A still from a video shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu. (AFP)

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Algiers - Mali will do everything it can to recover the vast northern territory seized by Tuareg separatists and now mainly controlled by Islamist extremists, the country's foreign minister said on Monday.

"We will do everything to recover our territory," Sadio Lamine Sow told AFP, speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Algeria, where he held talks with the Algerian authorities.

"Everything that can be done for us towards a reconquest of these occupied territories, we will accept it willingly... when these efforts go in the direction we agree with," he added.

But at no point did he speak in terms of military intervention, and he would not be drawn when asked about the possibility of Algeria joining such an operation, refusing to comment.

Algeria's African Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel said Algiers was working on a political solution that both countries believed was still possible, saying it was on the right path.

Sow condemned the armed groups now controlling the cities in northern Mali as "armed terrorists".

"It is they who are raping women, pillaging banks" and conducting a campaign of destruction, he said, saying these acts were crimes against humanity and would not go unpunished.

Militants from the Ansar Dine movement have destroyed Islamic relics in the ancient city of Timbuktu, condemning them as un-Islamic.

A 22 March coup in Mali eased the way for Tuareg separatist rebels to seize an area in the north larger than France that they consider their homeland.

However, the previously unknown Ansar Dine group, fighting on their flanks, later seized the upper hand.

Openly allied with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, they have since pushed the Tuareg rebels from all positions of power.

The international community fears the vast desert area will become a new haven for terrorist activity and the militants have threatened any country that joins a possible military intervention force in Mali.

Read more on:    tuaregs  |  al-qaeda  |  ansar dine  |  mali  |  west africa
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