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Tuareg Rebels In Mali Declare Independence For North

4/6/2012 4:41 AM ET

The West African nation of Mali plunged in fresh political turmoil as a rebel group in the country's north on Friday declared independence for a region it called 'Azawad,' after seizing control of the area late last month.

The Tuareg rebels was one of the two groups which gained ground after the elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in a coup last month.

"We solemnly proclaim the independence of Azawad as from today," Mossa Ag Attaher, a spokesman for Mali's National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), said on France 24 television. They have also posted a statement to this effect on the group's website.

The rebels, mostly mercenaries who had fought for Moammar Qadhafi during the Libyan conflict, had been waging a rebellion for the independence of Mali's north, largely an arid region.

Meanwhile, rights group Amnesty International warned that Mali was on the brink of a major humanitarian disaster in the wake of the rebellion and said aid agencies be given immediate access to the country after days of looting, abduction and chaos in the northern towns of Gao, Kidal and the historic city of Timbuktu.

The MNLA rebels on Thursday declared a "unilateral" ceasefire after the U.N. Security Council called for an end to the fighting in Mali.

A statement posted on the group's website said it would respect existing borders with neighboring States and adhere to the U.N. Charter. The statement also called for recognition from the international community.

by RTT Staff Writer

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