Speaking after meeting Burkinabe Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole in the northern town of Kidal, Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghaly said “I firmly support this mediation effort.”
Bassole flew on a charter jet to the north Malian cities of Gao and Kidal in order to meet the radical Islamists controlling the area. Mr Bassole is the most senior diplomat to visit the area seized by Islamist and secular Tuareg forces in March.
Before arriving in Kidal, where he met Ag Ghali, Bassole stopped in the northern city of Gao, controlled by the jihadist group Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, known as MUJAO . There, he visited the municipal hospital, and asked after Malian radio journalist Abdoul Malick Maiga, who was hospitalized on Sunday.
Maiga was attacked for reporting on a protest march in Gao that led MUJAO to go back on their decision to cut off the hand of a man who allegedly stole something. The protest marks one of the only times that residents have succeeded in getting the Islamists to back down on the application of Shariah. A week earlier, a couple in the northern village of Aguelhok were stoned to death in a Shariah punishment for allegedly committing adultery.
Earlier, the West African leaders said that they would send an intervention force of 3,000 to Mali.
But the UN Security Council is yet to approve the move, fearing intervention could become a costly and lengthy affair.
Rebel forces seized northern Mali after the army staged a coup in March.
The Islamists are in control of the region’s three major towns – Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal – after falling out with the Tuareg groups which have been fighting for independence for the area.
They have been condemned by human rights groups for destroying ancient shrines in Timbuktu and for stoning to death an unmarried couple for having sex outside marriage last week.