Source: New York Times/Denver Post
West Africa’s regional trade bloc began drawing up plans for military action to tackle the twin crises of a coup and a rebellion in Mali, as Tuareg rebels who have seized control over much of the north of the country declared a cease-fire in their drive to create an independent homeland.
In Bamako, the capital, Mali’s main political parties refused to participate in a national conference called by the military junta that toppled the country’s democratically elected president last month.
In an interview with the French newspaper Liberation, the leader of the junta, which has said it seized power because of the civilian government’s ineffective handling of the Tuareg uprising in the north, pleaded for international help in fighting the Tuaregs.
« If the great powers were able to cross oceans to fight against the Islamists, what prevents them from coming to us? » said the leader, Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, alluding to the war in Afghanistan.
But such assistance is unlikely. On Thursday France ruled out a « military solution » in Mali, a former French colony, to counter the Tuareg rebels, who announced that they had achieved their territorial objectives and were seeking outside backing for a breakaway state they call Azawad.
The declaration by the main Tuareg rebel group on its website came after other rebel fighters, who helped seize the ancient city of Timbuktu over the weekend, were quoted by local officials as saying they planned to impose Islamic law there.
The Tuareg rebels have taken advantage of the military coup in Bamako to press their separatist campaign, seizing a string of settlements in the northern desert with lightning speed.