DAKAR - A faction of one of the armed Islamist groups occupying the north of the Mali has split off from its al-Qaida allies and says it is willing to hold talks with the government, the leader of the new group said on Thursday.
Alghabass Ag Intallah, a senior member of the Tuareg-led Ansar Dine group which helped seize northern Mali last year from government forces, said he had created a new organization, the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA), and was ready to seek a negotiated solution to Mali's conflict.
A French-led military operation is underway in Mali to drive back the Islamist fighters who launched a surprise push southward toward the capital Bamako two weeks ago. An African ground force is being deployed to support French and Malian troops.
"We want to wage our war and not that of AQIM," Ag Intallah said by telephone, referring to al Qaeda's North African wing which has been at the heart of the takeover of the vast desert north by Malian and foreign Islamist fighters.