Rebel leader in Mali says 2 groups merge, agree on Islamic state

A rebel leader says the two rebel groups in north Mali have agreed to merge and work together to create an independent Islamic state on the territory they occupy.

Alghabass Ag Intalla, one of the leaders of Ansar Dine, an Islamic rebel group, said Saturday it is joining with the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, a secular rebel group led by Tuareg separatists.

The two groups took over the north of Mali, an area the size of France, at the end of March, forcing Malian government troops to flee south. Until now, the two had been in disagreement because Ansar Dine wants to impose Shariah law in the north of Mali, something the NMLA had been resisting.

Previously Ansar Dine had said it was opposed to the north of Mali becoming independent.