Mali under pressure to give separatists autonomy in fight against al-Qaida
Ecowas wants Tuaregs to help take on militants as officials say priority is to remove all terrorists
West African officials are pushing the Mali government to offer Tuareg separatists in the north of the country autonomy in exchange for joining the fight against hardline al-Qaida-linked terrorists, the Guardian has learned.
The regional bloc of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also hopes to boost their efforts to flush out militants from northern Mali by persuading moderate members of one of the powerful Islamist groups controlling the region to join forces with Tuaregs.
Granting the Tuaregs any kind of autonomy in exchange for their support would reverse the policies many Tuaregs have fought to overturn since Mali's independence 52 years ago, and could embolden dozens of separatist movements across West Africa.
Malian officials said four government representatives have this week been appointed to lead discussions with the Tuareg independence movement, the Mouvement National de Libération de l'Azawad (MNLA) and moderate members of the Islamist Ansar Dine movement...