Mali’s Government Asks Islamic Council To Launch Peace Talks With Al-Qaeda Affiliate

Mali’s government on Tuesday said it has asked the country’s main Islamic body to start peace talks with leaders of al Qaeda’s local affiliate in an effort to end a decade of conflict, reported Reuters.

Mamadou Kone, Mali’s minister of religious affairs, confirmed that the government had approached the Islamic institution to lead discussions with the two militant groups.

The announcement, made by Mali’s religious affairs ministry, is one of the most concrete steps taken by far towards reaching negotiations with the militant groups. It, however, remains unclear when talks would begin.

In an interview with Reuters, Khalil Camara, the religious affairs ministry spokesperson, said the ministry has asked the High Islamic Council (HCI) to launch negotiations with the leaders of the Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) group.

Camara said Kone met the High Islamic Council last week to inform them of the government’s desire to negotiate with all the radical Malian groups including Amadou Koufa and Iyad Ag Ghali.

The council said it will start negotiation talks with Malian jihadist leaders Iyad Ag Ghaly and Amadou Kouffa of the al-Qaida-linked JNIM group.

Mohamed Kibiri, the spokesman for the Islamic body, said their representatives are already working in the country’s north.

“The only directive we have received is to negotiate only with the Malians,” he said. “The other jihadists we consider invaders.”

He also said the subject of Shariah law is not taboo and that everything is negotiable.

The Islamic council had helped to reach a cease-fire agreement between an al-Qaida-linked group and local fighters in a village in central Mali.

Mali has been facing insecurity issues since 2012 when al-Qaida-linked militant groups took control of the country’s northern region. Despite a French-led military operation in the area, insurgents continue to advance year after year toward the south of the country, where Mali’s capital is located.

Caroline Finnegan

A professionnal journalist for the past ten years, I cover global news and economic affairs for The Chief Observer.

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