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Mali Militia Agrees to Leave Occupied Northern Town

FILE - French forces patrol in the desert of Northern Mali along the border with Niger on the outskirts of Asongo, Northern Mali, June 24, 2015.

A government-allied militia has agreed to leave a northern Mali town it occupied earlier this month following clashes with Tuareg separatists, a move praised by the country's United Nations peacekeeping mission as helpful for preserving a fragile peace accord.

The militia agreed to leave following the intervention on Saturday of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, said Fihroun Maiga, spokesman for the Platform coalition of militia groups.

On Friday, Maiga had insisted they would stay in the town to prevent the separatists from returning, flouting the demands of an international peace monitoring group.

The president "gave the order to leave Anefis without conditions and we are executing it," Maiga said Sunday. He said militia representatives planned to take a helicopter from the northern town of Gao to Anefis to alert their fighters.

Tuareg separatists and al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic extremists took control of northern Mali following a military coup in 2012, prompting a French-led military intervention the following year.

In June, the government, allied militias and separatists signed a peace accord. But in mid-August, fighting broke out between the GATIA militia and the main Tuareg separatist group, the Coordination of Azawad Movements.

Clashes on August 17 pushed the separatists from Anefis, located about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) northeast of Bamako.

The United Nations on Thursday said it was investigating who was responsible for breaking the peace accord.

On Saturday, the country's U.N. peacekeeping mission issued a statement praising President Keita's intervention in the Anefis dispute.