SEGOU, Mali — Ansar Dine, one of the main Islamic militant groups fighting to control Mali, split in two Thursday when one of its leaders said in a statement published by Radio France Internationale that he would form his own group to seek negotiations to settle the country’s crisis.
The new group, which calls itself the Islamic Movement for the Azawad and is led by Alghabass Ag Intalla, a prominent leader of the Tuareg ethnic group, becomes at least the sixth group to be fighting in an increasingly complex battle to control northern Mali.
Azawad is a Tuareg term for the vast desert region.
Intalla was described on the French radio station as the heir to the traditional ruler of the remote and sparsely populated Kidal region in the northeast.
He was said to have been among Tuareg representatives who met with Malian diplomats in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso, late last year. The talks were an attempt to resolve longstanding Tuareg complaints and get them away from Islamists from other countries, notably Algeria, who are operating in northern Mali.
According to Radio France Internationale, the splinter group was prepared to fight its former allies.
The split within Ansar Dine came after French airstrikes halted the southward advance of rebel groups trying to push toward the capital, Bamako.
French and Malian troops have retaken the central town of Diabaly, which was briefly occupied by an Islamist group.
They also claim to have cleared Konna and Douentza, but have not allowed journalists to visit.