Mali Tuareg and Islamist rebels settle on Islamic states

  • Two Malian rebel groups have jointly declared they will create an Islamic state out of territory seized in the north of the country two months ago.

    The secular Tuareg MNLA and the Islamist Ansar Dine group signed the deal in the town of Gao.

    Ansar Dine, which has ties to al-Qaeda, has already started to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in towns such as Timbuktu.

    The groups seized the territory, an area the size of France, following a coup in March.

    Captain Amadou Sanogo seized power on March 22 after claiming the then president, Amadou Toumani Toure, was not doing enough to halt the rebellion. He was forced to step down three weeks later.

    It is estimated that more than 300,000 people have fled northern Mali since the rebels took over.

    Regional bloc ECOWAS has said it will send 3,000 troops to Mali to help the country reclaim the territory. An arrival date has not yet been set.