Bamako - The assault on a luxury hotel in Mali's capital that killed 19 people was a clear attempt to derail a fragile peace process meant to stabilize the country's volatile north, a representative of northern separatist groups said on Sunday.
A peace accord between the Bamako-based government and separatist groups was signed in June, and local agreements in the north were signed in October. But Islamic extremist groups such as Ansar Dine had spoken out against the accord, accusing separatists who'd signed it of betraying the local population.
Friday's assault on the Radisson Blu hotel came as the hotel was preparing to host the latest meeting of a committee working toward the accord's implementation.
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It was claimed by Al-Mourabitoun (The Sentinels), an extremist group formed by notorious Algerian militant Moktar Belmoktar with links to al-Qaeda and Ansar Dine.
"The attack was targeting the peace agreement," said Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, a representative of the Co-ordination of Azawad Movements, known by its French acronym CMA. The CMA is a coalition of groups seeking autonomy in northern Mali, including ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs.
"The jihadis are in different groups, but their goal is the same, and that's to hinder implementation of the peace accord," Sidati said.
In the northern Mali regions of Timbuktu and Kidal, new leaflets were distributed on Saturday warning against collaboration with the Malian army, France and the United Nations peacekeeping mission, Sidati said.