Tuareg rebels say working with French against 'terrorists'

Tuareg former rebels in Mali said Tuesday they were working with French forces fighting Islamists who have been routed from key strongholds in the north of the country.

"In the framework of anti-terrorist coordination put in place with French forces" the former rebels will provide intelligence on "top terrorist officials" they have arrested, a spokesman for the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), Mossa Ag Attaher, said in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.

The MNLA had "a real commitment (to) the fight against terrorism", he said, but gave no details about the coordination with the French.

A rebellion launched by the MNLA early last year sparked the military coup in Bamako that other Islamist groups seized upon to take over Mali's north.

Initially allied to the Islamists, the Tuaregs later found themselves sidelined. But last month the MNLA reemerged, saying they wanted to rid Mali of terrorism and would help to broker peace.

At weekend, the number-three leader of Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith), one of the three main Islamist groups who occupied northern Mali for over 10 months, was arrested near the Algerian border.

The arrest of Mohamed Moussa Ag Mouhamed is believed to have been carried out by the MNLA or a splinter group of Ansar Dine, the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA).