BAMAKO, Mali – Mali's president says an Islamist group carrying out public executions and amputations in the country's north is mostly made up of Malians and not foreign fighters.
The comments mark the first time Mali's leader has acknowledged that the Ansar Dine militants who took control of the north are not foreign citizens.
Previously the government had maintained the group included militants from al-Qaida's North Africa branch and other foreigners who had come from Libya.
On Wednesday, though, President Dioncounda Traore said Ansar Dine fighters "are mainly made up of our fellow countrymen."
Ansar Dine, or "Defenders of the Faith," controls the towns of Kidal and Timbuktu in northern Mali, where they have imposed a strict form of Islamic law known as Shariah there.