Malian Islamists move south toward government forces

By REUTERS
January 7, 2013 23:49

 
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BAMAKO - Islamist rebels in control of northern Mali pushed south, close to government positions on Monday, army sources said, raising fears of fresh clashes after months of tense standoff.

Militants seized the northern two-thirds of the arid African nation in April, setting up what Western and regional powers fear could provide a haven for radicals to plot international attacks.

Ansar Dine, one of the main rebel forces which announced it was ending a ceasefire with the government late last month, refused to comment on whether it was moving its fighters or planning an attack.

Malian Defence Minister Colonel Yamoussa Camara told Radio France International that "jihadist groups" had deployed at several points along the demarcation line separating the vast rebel-held desert north from the government-controlled south.

The UN Security Council in December approved plans to deploy an African-led military force to northern Mali to oust al-Qaida-linked groups, in an operation not expected to begin before September.

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