Cairo, 6 Rabiul Awwal 1434/ 18 January 2013 (MINA)An international body of Muslim scholars has called for reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict in Mali, condemning France’s military intervention in the African country.

       “A peaceful solution and national reconciliation are the only key to solving the problem in Mali,” the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) said in a statement obtained by “This solution is still within reach.”

        France sent troops and launched airstrikes this week to stop the advance of Islamist fighters in northern Mali, according to report received by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Friday.

        “The IUMS criticizes France’s hasty move to launch war before trying all means to reach a peaceful solution and achieve national reconciliation,” the Dublin-based body said.

         The French military intervention has raised the risk of attacks on foreigners in the region.

         On Wednesday, the Islamist fighters took several foreigners hostage in neighboring Algeria, demanding a halt of the French military campaign in Mali.

        A group calling itself the “Battalion of Blood” says it seized 41 foreigners, including Americans, Japanese and Europeans, after storming a natural gas pumping station and employee barracks before dawn on Wednesday.

        The attackers have demanded an end to the French military campaign in Mali.

        But on Thursday, some hostages were reported to have escaped from the besieged gas plant.

        Algeria’s Ennahar television said 15 foreigners, including two French citizens, had escaped the besieged plant deep in the Sahara desert.

        About 40 Algerians had also been freed, mainly women working as translators, it said.

         A security source told Reuters the captors, encircled by Algerian troops, were demanding safe passage out with their prisoners. Algeria has refused to negotiate.


         The IUMS has warned of the dangerous impact of the foreign military intervention on stability in the region.

        “This would cause more killings, destructions and make innocent civilians homeless,” the statement said.

        The UN has said that an estimated 30,000 people had fled the latest fighting in Mali, joining more than 200,000 already displaced.

        The Muslim scholars have reiterated readiness to offer help to reach a peaceful solution to the Malian conflict.

       “The IUMS is ready to continue its efforts to achieve reconciliation,” said the body, led by prominent scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.

       “We also appeal to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and African countries to work to halt the war, achieve reconciliation and reach a satisfactory solution to all parties.”

       On Tuesday, the OIC, of which Mali is a member, called for a ceasefire in the African country to help solve the conflict.

      “We also urge the armed groups to resort to reason and wisdom and accept reconciliation and dialogue to help reach a fair and peaceful solution,” the IUMS said.

       Mali, once regarded as a fine example of African democracy, collapsed into chaos after soldiers toppled the president in March, leaving a power vacuum in the north that enabled rebels to take control of nearly two-thirds of the country. (T/R-012/R-006)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)

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