Mali jihadi leader reappears to threaten France

AFP , Thursday 7 Aug 2014

The leader of a jihadist group driven from northern Mali by French troops has reappeared for the first time in 18 months with a video message calling for Muslims to rise up against France, "which detests Islam".

Iyad Ag Ghaly, who led a Tuareg rebellion in the Sahara before setting up the armed group Ansar Dine ("Defenders of the Faith"), disappeared in January 2013 soon after France intervened to stop a column of Islamist insurgents taking Mali's capital Bamako and toppling the government.

In a 23-minute video in Arabic put online on Tuesday, he signalled a return to combat, saying his group was "ready to unite with our brothers on the ground to face up to the crusaders and infidels who have united to fight Islam in our land".

Iyad Ag Ghaly accused the French and their Malian army allies of a litany of atrocities against the people of northern Mali that "brings shivers to the spine".

Flanked by a black jihadist flag and a Kalachnikov rifle, his long monologue was intercut with images of French interests in Africa.

The US placed Ansar Dine on its terrorist blacklist in March 2013 alongside Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi), with whom it has been linked.

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