Alghabass Ag Intalla announced the formation of the Islamic Movement for the Azawad and said he would pursue negotiations to end the growing conflict in Mali, which has drawn in French combat troops.
Intalla is a prominent leader among Mali's ethnic Tuareg community in the remote Kidal region of northeast Mali, The New York Times said. He was reportedly among a group of Tuareg leaders who met last year with government officials in an effort to find a solution to the conflict.
Intalla indicated in a written statement sent to Radio France Internationale his forces would turn on their former allies, the Ansar Dine organization, if necessary. The Times said Intalla and Ansar Dine split shortly after French airstrikes halted a rebel advance on the Malian capital, Bamako.
Meanwhile, the skirmishing continued in Mali where reports of alleged atrocities by Malian soldiers seemed to be on the rise. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RFI it appeared Malian forces had executed rebel prisoners. Human rights groups have reported recently there have been similar reports of slayings of suspected rebel collaborators and members of "light-skinned" ethnic groups in at least three towns.
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