A Tuareg group headed by a key Niger rebel leader said it rejects a peace deal brokered by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi between the fighters and the governments of Niger and Mali.
The FFR faction, led by Rhissa Ag Boula who was at the forefront of the Tuareg rebellion of 1990, said it would continue to “pursue the political and armed struggle until democratic order and justice are restored”.
The statement on the group’s official website adds to evidence of divisions among the fighters in the uranium-rich desert region that have stymied past peace accords and may threaten this one as well, Reuters reports.
Mali and Niger last wek agreed to a comprehensive peace deal with the main Tuareg rebel groups under which more than 1000 fighters had already laid down their arms.
Gaddafi said under the deal “there will be no single armed rebel left in the mountains of Mali and Niger and all those who used to lead the rebel movements are present alongside me”.
Gaddafi has brokered similar deals in the past two years but splintered Tuareg factions reneged on the pledges, blaming Mali and Niger for failing to respect the accords.
Nomadic Tuaregs launched uprisings in the Sahara in the 1960s and 1990s, and renewed rebellions since early 2007 against the governments of Niger and Mali have increased instability in a region where al Qaeda cells also operate.
International resource firms such as France’s Areva and Canada’s Cameco have mining operations in the area, home to vast deposits of uranium.
FFR’s statement came after Tuareg rebels belonging to the National Patriotic Front disarmed in a televised ceremony on Friday in Agadez in the north of the country.
Members of main rebel group Niger Movement for Justice had disarmed two days earlier, though a statement on its official website criticised the peace deal adding further evidence of divisions among the rebels.
Gaddafi, who in the past helped Tuareg rebels with money and weapons, urged Tuaregs to renounce violence and focus on sustaining peace and stability.