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Malian Army Says Mission is to Fight Northern Rebels

Militiaman from the Ansar Dine Islamic group ride on an armed vehicle between Gao and Kidal, northeastern Mali, June 12, 2012.
Following demonstrations in Bamako demanding the government forces to recapture rebel-held territory in the north; a military spokesperson said the army plans to eventually launch an operation to liberate the region.

"We are preparing to go north…our mission is to liberate the north,” said Mali army spokesman Idrissa Traore. He added there was no specific date for when they would do so.

Territory in northern Mali was captured by a coalition of Tuareg rebels and Ansar Dine Islamist militants following a March 22nd coup that left the government unable to halt the rebel advance. Ansar Dine is openly allied with the North African branch of the al-Qaida terror network.

But, after declaring northern independence, the two groups have severed ties. Since Saturday, the Islamists have been destroying 15th and 16th century mausoleums drawing international condemnation.

“We are determined to chase out the terrorists of MUJAO, and Ansar Dine, and AQMI, from the territory of our ancestors,” said Moussa al-Assarid, a spokesperson for the Tuareg rebel group, known as the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA.

Since the Tuareg rebels declared they were establishing the nation of Azawad, the spokesman said four terror-aligned groups have begun fighting the Tuareg rebels.

Besides Ansar Dine, the group has found itself pitted against al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).

MUJAO is said to control most of the area around the northern city of Gao. “They have put in landmines around the city of Gao, and we have also learned that there is a

Traore said, as far as the army is concerned, there is little distinction between Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants.

Assarid insisted that Azawad is independent and the Tuaregs will not accept any reconciliation with the government. “The Malian army does not want to come back to Azawad. They know it’s not their home.”

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