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Mali

Mali interim president threatens total war to win back north

Reuters/Malin Palm

Mali’s interim president threatened to launch “total war” on Tuareg rebels and Islamist militias controlling the north of the country at his swearing-in Thursday. Former parliament speaker Dioncounda Traoré is expected to name former putschists to his government as he guides the crisis-hit country back to democracy.

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Traoré told the insurgents to “stop the artocities, the pillaging, the rapes” and “leave the cities they have occupied”.

Dioncounda Traoré, a 70-year-old mathematician-turned-politician, has become president under the terms of an agreement between coup leaders and Ecowas.

As well as the Malian languages Bambara and Soninke, he speaks French, Russian, English and Spanish.

A united campaign by the Tuareg separatist MNLA and Islamist groups, Ansar Dine, Mujao and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) has wrested control of the north of the country.

But the Islamists have control of Timbuktu, where the MNLA is restricted to the outskirts, and hold the governor’s compound and access roads to Gao, according to RFI’s sources.

Residents have told RFI that the best-equipped and best-organised fighters are those of Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ali, who is negotiating the liberation of prisoners in the north with the Islamic High Council of Mali.

“We prefer peace but if war is the only solution we will make it with our army,” Traoré said, warning that they would launch “total and relentless war” if the rebels do not comply with his demands.

Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo attended the swearing-in ceremony and Traoré seems likely to appoint some of his supporters to ministerial posts.

West African foreign and defence ministers in Ecowas were set to discuss whether to send a military force to the north at a meeting in Côte d’Ivoire on Thursday.

The UN Security Council on Monday warned of a growing “terrorist threat” in Mali and condemned the kidnapping of seven Algerian diplomats in Gao.

The European Commission has warned that the north could face a “humanitarian disaster” and said the crisis could “spill over to neighbouring countries”.

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