Conflict & Justice

Mali: Tuareg rebels capture 2 Islamist militant leaders


The name of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) written on a tree in front of the town hall in Gao, Mali, on Feb. 1, 2013.



As French warplanes bombed Islamist militants’ bases and fuel depots in Mali's remote north, Tuareg rebels said they had captured two senior militant leaders, Reuters reported.

The Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), a Tuareg group that wants an independent homeland, said that its fighters had captured Mohamed Moussa Ag Mohamed, third in command of militant group Ansar Dine, and Oumeini Ould Baba Akhmed, a member of Al Qaeda splinter group MUJWA, Reuters reported.

Mohamed Moussa Ag Mohamed forced strict Sharia Law on the people of Timbuktu, which Ansar Dine controlled until last week, and Oumeini Ould Baba Akhmed helped kidnap a French hostage in November 2012, France 24 reported. Both men were seized near the Algerian border.

"We chased an Islamist convoy close to the frontier and arrested the two men the day before yesterday," Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, spokesman for the MNLA, told Reuters from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. "They have been questioned and sent to Kidal."

The MNLA said it would help French troops locate and arrest Islamists, Reuters reported.

French troops have been in Mali since Jan. 11 on a mission to drive Islamist militants out of the country’s northern towns, BBC News reported.

More from GlobalPost: Mali: French troops take last rebel stronghold in Kidal

According to Reuters:

Paris and its international partners want to prevent the Islamists from using Mali's vast desert north as a base to launch attacks on neighboring African countries and the West.

Currently, France is attempting to cut off the Islamist militants’ supply lines, BBC News reported.

"If you look at the map, they have taken refuge in the north and in the northeast," France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told France Inter radio, according to BBC News. "But they can stay there for long only if they have ways to get supplies. So, in a very efficient manner, the army is stopping that."