A Tuareg rebel group in the West African state of Mali has declared independence in the northern region of Azawad.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad seized control of the area last month, taking advantage of a military coup that overthrew the Malian president Amadou Toumani Touré.
On its website, the MNLA said it had captured enough territory to declare independence, and that it would respect the borders of other states. But there are fears that further instability could be caused by the presence of other rebel groups in the region.
“All of Azawad is now under the control of the MNLA, said a MNLA spokesman, “but inside the territory we have found not only Islamists but also elements of Al Qaida, who have been allowed to operate with the complicity of the Malian authorities.”
The government in Mali was overthrown two weeks ago by the military because of a perceived inability to tackle rebel groups in the country. Coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, says the army will stay in power for now but promises to set up a transition body to organise elections.
Mali’s neighbours are now reported to be thinking about lifting sanctions imposed after the coup.