AU: Islamists in Northern Mali Threat to Africa, World

Posted July 14th, 2012 at 3:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Fears that Islamist militants in northern Mali could shake the stability of the entire region are growing.

Members of the African Union Peace and Security Council meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Saturday warned the Islamists, including al-Qaida, are intent on creating a new sanctuary for their activities.

AU Chairman Jean Ping called the situation one of the “most serious crises to confront the continent.” And AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra said “the strengthening of the grip of armed terrorist and criminal groups in the area” also poses a serious threat to international peace.

Radical Islamists overtook the country's vast northern desert in the wake of a political rebellion launched by Tuareg separatists. The militant groups have carried out severe beatings in towns under their control, and destroyed ancient Muslim shrines they claim are sacrilegious.

The African Union is working with the western regional bloc ECOWAS to support Mali's interim government, installed after a March 22 coup, and to discuss options for confronting the Islamist insurgency.

African leaders are also seeking U.N. Security Council support for military intervention in Mali to end the northern rebellion and reunite the Sahel region state.