Mali’s judiciary has announced an investigation into several ethnic separatists and Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist leaders for terrorism and money laundering, as security deteriorates in the country.

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An image grab made on June 25, 2016 from a video released by head of Islamist group Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly.
An image grab made on June 25, 2016 from a video released by head of Islamist group Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly. AFP – HANDOUT

Those being investigated include Iyag Ag Ghaly, a Tuareg militant and leader of Al-Qaeda-linked coalition Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), and radical Fulani preacher Amadou Koufa, who belongs to the same group, according to instructions issued by the Bamako Court of Appeal’s public prosecutor on Tuesday and shared with AFP.

Also on the list are six Tuareg leaders belonging to an alliance of armed groups that recently relaunched a rebellion against the state, despite signing a 2015 peace deal in Algiers.

The public prosecutor said the investigation was launched “not only against the terrorist leaders but also other members who were signatories to the 2015 peace agreement” and “have tipped over into terrorism“.

It cites “extremely serious” acts that “are likely to constitute the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, acts of terrorism, money laundering and financing of terrorism, illegal possession of weapons of war and munitions, and complicity in these same acts”.

Since 2012, Mali has been battling an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north of the vast West African state, claiming thousands of military and civilian lives.

Violence has subsequently swept the country while spilling over into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger – inflaming ethnic tensions along the way.

After seizing power three years ago, Mali’s junta ditched the country’s alliance with former colonial power France, preferring rapprochement with Moscow.

The junta has also ordered out the UN‘s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which had for the past decade maintained around 15,000 soldiers and police in the country.

The withdrawal, which is due to be completed by December 31, has exacerbated tensions between the military and rebel groups.

The north of Mali in particular has seen an intensification of confrontations, with a race for control of territory between the army, jihadists and separatists.

(AFP)

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