A violent Islamist group in northern Mali has announced its rejection of "extremism and terrorism" as regional leaders cement plans for military action.
Ansar Dine has been one of a number of groups in northern Mali carrying out public executions in its violent struggle to establish sharia law in Mali.
Representative Mohamed Aharid appealed to other "armed movements to cease hostilities and take steps to establish the trust required for inclusive political talks" late on Tuesday, following days of negotiations with government officials.
But nothing was said about Ansar Dine's brutal application of Islamic law which has seen thieves had their hands cut off and the stoning to death of a couple who had children out of wedlock.
Ansar Dine has been widely seen as the group most likely to agree to end the violence as its members are largely local Malians rather than foreign fighters.
Rebels seized on a power vacuum created when democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in a March coup by people dissatisfied with his handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the north.
Al-Qaida-linked fighters flooded into the country, many displaced by the conflict in Libya, and declared an independent Islamic state.
It was hoped that the Ansar Dine will now cut ties with al-Qaida linked fighters, but it was not actually clear if the negotiators represented all the factions within the rebel group.
East African regional group Ecowas has been leading efforts, supported by the EU and UN, to kick the rebels out of the north. Military chiefs agreed a military strategy late on Tuesday to take on the Tuareg rebellion.
The plan will be discussed by Ecowas heads of state at a meeting this weekend before going on to the UN security council for final approval on November 26.
The plan could see thousands of east African soldiers sent to take on the rebels.
Malian security services said today they increasingly fear that the north is becoming a beacon for would-be jihadists.
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