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20:21, 26 June 2017 Monday
Update: 09:54, 10 September 2012 Monday

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Mali army kills 16 Muslim preachers
Mali army kills 16 Muslim preachers

The Malian government confirmed in a short statement on Sunday evening.

World Bulletin / News Desk 

Mali Islamic group MUJWA said on Sunday the killing of 16 Muslim preachers including eight Mauritanians and eight Malians by an army patrol in Mali was a declaration of war.

The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) is one of the Islamic groups that has hijacked a Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali since April.

"With this barbaric act that was not warranted, I don't see any future for Malian army or the Malian government because we are going to continue our southward push to Bamako. This was a declaration of war," said Oumar Ould Hamaha, a senior speaking on behalf MUJWA.

"The 16 were moderate Islamists. They were killed at a checkpoint in Diabaly in the Segou region, close to the Mauritanian border," he told Reuters by telephone.

He said the preachers were travelling in a convoy to the capital Bamako for a conference when an army patrol opened fire.

After initially limiting its presence to the three regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, MUJWA retook the town of Douentza at the crossroads of north and south Mali on Sept. 2.

The Malian government confirmed in a short statement on Sunday evening that: "An incident occurred at the Diabaly checkpoint on Saturday evening during which 16 people including eight Mauritanians and eight Malians were killed by gunshot."

It said an investigation has been launched.

A Malian army officer based at the Segou military camp told Reuters by telephone an army patrol had attacked first in order not to be caught by surprise.

"It was in response against an attempted incursion of the Islamist group. Elements of our patrol did not wait to be ambushed because they had been following the movement of the group," he said, requesting not to be named.

Conference

Mali has been mired in chaos since March when soldiers toppled the president, leaving a power vacuum that enabled Tuareg rebels from the north to seize nearly two thirds of the country.

Mohamed Coulibaly, one of the organisers of the conference said the 16 preachers killed were expected to attend the event starting on Sept. 14 in the Malian capital.

"They were stopped and searched at a checkpoint and nothing was found. They were not armed. They even called to alert us that they had been stopped at the checkpoint and we alerted the authorities in Bamako," Coulibaly told Reuters at the Dawa Mosque in the Banankabougou neighbourhood in Bamako.

"We were surprised to hear this morning that they were all killed," he said.

Mali's interim leader Dioncounda Traore, last week made a formal request to West African regional body ECOWAS for military assistance to help free the country's north.



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.