Mali's Mujao Islamists and rebels in battle for control

Islamist fighters in Timbuktu, Mali, in August 2012 Islamists control most of northern Mali

Militant Islamists and Tuareg-led rebels have clashed in northern Mali.

The rebels said they launched an offensive against the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) group, but they were later repelled, AFP news agency reported.

Meanwhile, rebels and another Islamist group, Ansar Dine, held talks in neighbouring Burkina Faso.

The Islamists said they were ready to work with the Malian government to end months of instability in the north.

The UN Security Council is due to discuss plans in the next few weeks to deploy a regional force to northern Mali.

The regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), says it will send about 3,300 troops to Mali, if the UN gives the green light.

'Strangling the rebels'

The Islamists and rebels - a secular group made up of ethnic Tuaregs known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) - captured northern Mali earlier this year following a joint offensive against government forces.

However, their alliance has since collapsed, with the Islamists taking territory from the MNLA.


MNLA spokesman Moussa Ag Assarid told AFP their offensive on Friday was aimed at capturing their former stronghold of Gao from Mujao.

Mujao spokesman Oumar Ould Hamaha confirmed that they had been attacked, and at least 12 of their fighters had been captured, AP news agency reports.

Mr Hamaha said Mujao fought back.

"We burned their vehicles.... We are in the process of strangling them," he is quoted as saying.

AFP quoted unnamed security sources as saying the MNLA had suffered a "heavy defeat".

In Burkina Faso, representatives of Ansar Dine - Mujao's Islamist rivals - and the MNLA issued a joint statement saying they were prepared to "engage resolutely in a process of political dialogue" to end instability in Mali.

This followed talks with mediator Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Faso who is leading mediation efforts on behalf of Ecowas.

Ecowas officials have previously said they would send a force to northern Mali only if talks fail.

Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown in March by a junta of disaffected soldiers who claimed his government had not dealt effectively with a Tuareg rebellion that had started in January.

Islamist groups - who have since fallen out with their Tuareg allies - took advantage of the ensuing chaos and seized all the region's major towns, including the historic city of Timbuktu.

The Islamists have destroyed ancient shrines in Timbuktu and have imposed a strict version of Islamic law, sparking international outrage.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Africa stories


Features & Analysis

  • Abdi Nor IftinGolden ticket

    How a refugee entered a lottery and won a new life in the US

  • Herring in a fur coatMerry herring

    How fish 'in a fur coat' is enough to make Russia's New Year happy

  • Curiosity Self Portrait at Windjana Drilling SiteIn pictures

    The most stunning space photos of the year

  • Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Dame Judi DenchFilm quiz of 2014

    How much do you remember about the past 12 months?

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • GeoguessrWhere in the world...?

    Think you are a geography expert? Test your knowledge with BBC Travel’s interactive game


  • Click presenter Spencer Kelly flies a droneClick Watch

    From wearable technology to drones and robots - highlights from 2014

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.