Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mali's rebels announce end to military operation: statement

BAMAKO, April 4 (Xinhua) -- The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) decided on Wednesday to put an end to its military operations as of Thursday.

The Tuareg group "decides unilaterally to proclaim an end to military operations as of Thursday, April 5 at midnight GMT", "following the complete liberation of the territory of Azawad and given the strong demand from international community, especially the Security Council and UN Peace, United States of America, France and the States of the Sub-Region," according to a statement on the movement's website.

The groups "calls on States of the subregion and the international community to ensure the people of Azawad, against all assaults of Mali," the statement said.

The announcement came after the Tuareg rebels of the MNLA on Sunday captured Mali's heritage town of Timbuktu after taking two other important towns of Kidal and Gao. Timbuktu fell into the hands of Tuareg rebels, marking a milestone in their repeated uprisings since the 1960s for an independent Azawad land comprising Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.

For the first time, the rebels have the three towns under control.

Tuareg rebels apparently took advantage of the coup on March 22, when the junta toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure, citing his failure to provide means for the military to curb the rebellion in the north.

With the fall of the northern towns, Mali's military junta is facing increasing pressure from two fronts: the military offensive by the rebels and the demand by the 15-member West African bloc ECOWAS to hand over power.

On Sunday, the junta reinstated the country's constitution of 1992 to pave the way for a transition leading to the presidential election, without clarifying who would head the transition and when to hold the polls.
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