The military chief of an Islamist rebel group that controls the city of Timbuktu said his movement opposes Tuareg independence in northern Mali and is simply fighting for Islam, according to the AFP.
“Our war is a sacred war. It’s a legal war in the name of Islam. We are against rebellions. We are against independence. We are against revolutions not in the name of Islam,” Omar Hamaha said, in a video obtained by AFP.
France also rejected the declaration of an independent Tuareg homeland by rebel fighters in northern Mali, and vowed to support the territorial integrity of its former colony.
“We consider that the unilateral declaration of independence of ‘Azawad’ is null and void,” foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said, after the Tuareg separatist MNLA force declared an independent homeland.
“France and the international community is attached to and defends the unity and territorial integrity of Mali,” he said. The African Union also rejected the independence declaration.
Valero said France was urging the MNLA to come to a negotiated settlement with the government in Mali that would be “respectful of the constitutional order in Mali and the unity of the country.”
He also condemned what he said was the “violence and looting” being carried out by two Islamist groups that are reportedly allied to the MNLA, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine.
Asked whether this meant that France draws a distinction between the actions of the MNLA, which is fighting for Tuareg independence, and the Islamist rebels, Valero said, “Yes.”
The European Union also condemned the partition of Mali by the Tuaregs, Friday.
The European Union called for talks to resolve the crisis.
“The EU has made clear throughout the crisis that it respects the territorial integrity of Mali,” Maja Kocijancic, the spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, told AFP.
“Any political solution to the current crisis must be found within the existing constitutional framework.”
The reaction comes after the main Tuareg rebel group, the MNLA, had declared the independence of their desert homeland they call Azawad.
However, the military chief of another rebel group that controls the city of Timbuktu, an Islamist movement known as Ansar Dine, has opposed Tuareg independence in northern Mali.
Kocijancic said it backed efforts by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to broker an end to the crisis in Mali which has been plunged into chaos since a coup last month.
“Until constitutional rule has been restored throughout Mali, these issues cannot be solved,” said the spokeswoman.
“We fully support ECOWAS efforts to achieve a swift solution to the problem.”