A government official says the spokesman for one of the al-Qaida-linked groups that occupied and controlled northern Mali for much of last year turned himself in to authorities on the border with Mauritania.

An official in the country's intelligence agency, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, told The Associated Press that Sanda Ould Boumana, the Timbuktu-based spokesman for the extremist group Ansar Dine, turned himself in on Saturday to the Mauritanian army on the border between Mauritania and Mali.

Ansar Dine ruled the cities of Timbuktu and Kidal in northern Mali for 10 months starting in late March of 2012. They were dislodged by French forces who led an intervention in January to retake the north.