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Mali

Mali Islamist group Ansar Dine on US terror list

The United States has declared Ansar Dine a terrorist organization and placed it on a black list. The Mali Islamist group seized much of the country's north last year, prompting a French-led intervention in January.

The US State Department announcement freezes any property the group has in the United States, and also bans Americans from doing business with it. Last month, Washington declared Ansar Dine's leader, Iyad ag Ghali (pictured above) a terrorist leader.

Ghali set up Ansar Dine in late 2011, with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) backing the group as it set out to capture Mali's north.

The group "received backing from AQIM in its fight against Malian and French forces, most notably in the capture of the Malian towns of Agulhok, Tessalit, Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu, between January and April [2012]," the State Department said.

"Before the French intervention in January 2013, Malian citizens in towns under [the group's] control who did not comply with [Ansar Dine's] laws faced harassment, torture or execution." The department referred to an attack in the town of Agulhok in March 2012, where more than 80 Malian soldiers were executed.

Some 4,000 French troops have been fighting the militants, pushing them to mountainous hideouts near the border with Algeria. The Islamists had fought alongside separatist Tuareg rebels in the region, but eventually seized control of the north from them.

Split in Ansar Dine

In late January, a possible split emerged in the group. Amid African troops joining a French advance, a breakaway faction announced it wanted a "peaceful solution."

French RFI radio reported that former Ansar Dine leader Alghabass Ag Intalla had declared the formation of the "Islamic Movement for Azawad," composed entirely of Malian nationals.

Intalla was quoted as saying that his new faction was looking for a "negotiated solution" and that it was committed to fighting "all forms of extremism and terrorism."

German support for Mali

Earlier this week, the German defense minister Thomas de Maiziere visited Mali, where Bundeswehr troops are set to arrive soon to help with training Malian soldiers, as well as with logistical and administrative support.

Germany is to contribute up to 330 soldiers to the 550-strong European Union Training Mission to support the Malian army.

"This is a huge task, that requires a lot of staying power," De Maiziere said. He added that, although the mission had an initial mandate of 15 months, Germany would support Mali for "as long as necessary."

jr/av (AFP, dpa, AP)