Mali Islamists in Burkina Faso for mediation talks


OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — A delegation from an Islamist extremist group controlling northern Mali is in Burkina Faso for talks with mediator President Blaise Compaore.

Alghabass Ag Intalla, a top official of the radical group Ansare Dine, told The Associated Press Saturday that he is in Ouagadougou as the head of a delegation meeting with Compaore, who has been appointed by the Economic Community of West African States to mediate in the Mali crisis.

Compaore is working to negotiate a resolution to the problems caused by the Islamists' separation of northern Mali from the rest of the country.

Ansar Dine's talks with Compaore come as France heads an international effort planning a military intervention to end the Islamists' occupation of northern Mali. Ansar Dine is the most powerful of the groups that have seized control of northern Mali, including the fabled city of Timbuktu, and have imposed strict Shariah law over the sprawling desert territory.

Burkina Faso has been trying to negotiate with the Islamists in northern Mali for a few months. In August Foreign Affairs Minister Djibrill Bassole travelled to northern Mali cities of Gao and Kidal, which are controlled by the Islamists. In Kidal, the Burkinabe minister met with the leader of Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Gali. The Burkina Faso envoy urged Ansar Dine to distance itself from other hardliners, fundamentalists and terrorist groups operating in northern Mali.