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Mali: Tuareg rebels declare ceasefire

Tuareg rebels with the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) say they have seized enough territory to form an independent homeland in northern Mali.

Tuareg rebels ecowasEnlarge
Ex-leaders of the 2007 Tuareg rebellion pose for a photograph at the "Forum for Peace and Development" on January 22, 2012, in Arlit, Niger. Addressing the Forum, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou warned of a new Tuareg rebellion in Niger after clashes between soldiers and rebels began in neighboring Mali. (BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuareg rebels have declared a ceasefire after seizing control of northern Mali, saying they have captured enough territory to form an independent homeland.

Rebels with the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) said Thursday they may declare a separate republic in Mali's north within a few days, the BBC reported.

The end to fighting is intended to allow humanitarian aid to resume in northern Mali, a spokesman for the MNLA told the Associated Press.

More from GlobalPost: Timbuktu falls to Mali rebels (PHOTOS)

Renegade soldiers, frustrated over their government's handling of the Tuareg rebellion, seized control of Mali in a military coup on March 22.

In the chaos that followed, Tuareg rebels backed by Al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters rapidly took control of the country's north, including the key towns of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. 

Nearly all of Timbuktu's 300 Christians have fled the ancient desert city since it fell to the rebels, who plan to impose sharia law, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, West African military leaders met Thursday in the Ivory Coast to draft plans for a possible armed intervention to oust Mali's junta from power.

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has called for negotiations with the rebels, saying there could be no military solution, Agence France-Presse reported.

Juppe told AFP this week that France fears the Tuareg rebels are increasingly dominated by Islamists with close ties to Al Qaeda.

More from GlobalPost: Mali coup: Soldiers overthrow government, loot presidential palace (VIDEO)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120405/mali-tuareg-rebels-declare-ceasefire-azawad-homeland