UN Chief Calls for Sanctions on Mali Extremists

Posted August 8th, 2012 at 1:40 pm (UTC-5)
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United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is calling for sanctions in Mali, where al-Qaida-linked militants are enforcing a harsh form of Islamic law in the north.

In a speech to the U.N. Security Council Wednesday, Mr. Ban urged member nations to seriously consider travel and financial sanctions against those he said are engaged in “terrorist, religious extremist or criminal activities” in Mali.

He said an influx of “regional and international jihadists” raises concern that northern Mali is becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

Two groups with alleged links to al-Qaida — Ansar Dine and MUJAO — seized control of the north after a March 22 coup in the capital, Bamako.

Mr. Ban noted that Ansar Dine has destroyed ancient Muslim mausoleums in the city of Timbuktu. The group also has executed a couple accused of adultery, while MUJAO tried to amputate the hand of a man accused of stealing.

A West African mediator visited northern Mali Tuesday and met with Ansar Dine to see if there is any chance of peace talks. Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole, representing the West African bloc ECOWAS, said he told Ansar Dine it must distance itself from terrorists.

Bassole said ECOWAS is trying to promote dialogue. ECOWAS, however, also has offered to deploy a force of more than 3,000 soldiers to help retake the north. The bloc says it is waiting for a formal request from Mali's interim government.

Mr. Ban said the conflict in Mali is making a bad humanitarian situation even worse. He said more than 174,000 Malians have been internally displaced, and more than 250,000 are refugees in neighboring countries.