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Mali militants seek peace after UN backs force

BAMAKO, Mali — The Al Qaeda-linked group that controls much of northern Mali agreed Friday to cease hostilities with another rebel group, a day after the United Nations backed a regional plan to oust the Islamists from power in a military intervention next year.

Ansar Dine, which controls the northern cities of Timbuktu and Kidal, and a secular rebel group known as the NMLA made the concessions following talks in neighboring Algeria.

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The groups vowed to work to free hostages in northern Mali, where Al Qaeda’s North Africa unit has made millions of dollars in ransoms and is now holding captive seven French nationals.

The UN Security Council on Thursday authorized an African-led force, but made no mention of its size and set no timeline for military action.

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said recently he does not expect a military operation to begin until September or October of next year.

The mayor of Timbuktu, which is controlled by the Islamist group Ansar Dine, has described conditions there as ‘‘a living hell.’’ The Al Qaeda-linked militants have imposed their version of strict Islamic law called Shariah.

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