Mali Arrests French Islamist Amid Northern Insurgency

  @crvillarreal on November 08 2012 2:14 PM

Mali has arrested a French national suspected of entering the country to set up a radical Islamist network.

Ibrahim Ouattara was picked up by authorities in central Mali traveling with a fake Senegalese passport.

"He's someone questionable, that's what alerted the authorities," Malian Defense Ministry spokesman Nouhoum Togo told Reuters. "He is being pursued by the French justice system, an investigation is under way."

Ouattara had been released from prison in France in July after serving a two-year sentence for plotting to murder a Muslim cleric in Paris whom he thought was too moderate.

Ouattara is suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants who have taken over much of the northern part of the country and established a de facto independent state under Sharia law.

The insurgency in the north is not only an issue for the Malian government, but also Western powers concerned that it will become a training ground and haven for terrorist groups.

The U.N. Security Council issued a 45-day deadline on Oct. 12 to the regional organization of West African nations (Ecowas) and the African Union to present a plan to push the Islamists out of northern Mali.

Ecowas is expected to present its plan this Sunday, according to the Agence-France Presse news agency.

"It is an ambitious plan, we should expect a little over 4,000 people in case of military intervention. We have studied all the parameters -- now we await instructions from our heads of state," a representative from Benin told the AFP.

Islamist militant group Ansar Dine has reportedly agreed to peace talks with the newly formed coalition government in the Malian capital Bamako.

Mali has been dealing with a rebellion among the Tuareg ethnic group in the north since January. Islamist militants allied themselves with the Tuaregs during the political turmoil following a coup in March and were able to take control of the north. The Islamists have since broken ranks with the Tuaregs but maintain control over much of the north.

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