World

Mali's Tuareg rebels declare
independence

Map locates distribution of Tuareg peoples. (AP)
Map locates distribution of Tuareg peoples. (AP)

Rebels of the nomadic Tuareg people who have seized control of Mali's remote north have declared the independence of the region, known as Azawad, citing 50 years of bad governance and UN articles on the rights of native people.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad accused Mali's governments of attempting to wipe out Tuaregs, including by starving them during various droughts.

Rebels led by Malian Tuareg colonels who fought for Moammar Gadhafi in Libya and returned home heavily armed led the rebellion that profited from a March 21 coup in the faraway capital of Bamako.

The NMLA is fighting alongside a smaller but radical Islamist group called the Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, who earlier announced it was imposing Sharia law in the ancient city of Timbuktu.

"Considering the complete liberation of the territory of Azawad, we irrevocably proclaim the independent state of Azawad, counting from today, Friday, April 6, 2012," said a statement from the NMLA's military leader and the movement's secretary general, Billal Ag Acherif, a former Libyan army colonel.

The statement also cited "the accumulation of more than 50 years of bad governance, of corruption and of military-political-financial collusion, endangering the existence of the people of Azawad and imperiling the stability of the sub-region and international peace."

The rebels launched their insurgency in January, saying they wanted to establish an independent Tuareg homeland in the north, known as the Azawad. They only succeeded in taking small towns until March 21, when disgruntled soldiers stormed the presidential palace in the distant capital of Bamako, overthrowing the democratically elected president.

In the confusion that followed the coup, the rebels launched a new offensive and succeeded in taking the capitals of the three main northern provinces, including Kidal, which fell last Friday, Gao on Saturday and Timbuktu on Sunday. (nvn)

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