Leaders of Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine, both occupying parts of northern Mali, are holding talks to outline their relationship.
"The leaders of AQIM and Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) began meeting on Thursday in Timbuktu to talk about their future relationship," a leader of the Islamic High Council in the city said.
Ansar Dine spokesman Sanda Ould Boumama confirmed the meeting was taking place, without giving details.
"They have begun the meeting in the Timbuktu military camp, they are all there," a Malian security source said.
AQIM heavyweights Abou Zeid and Moktar Ben Moctar, as well as Algerian Nabil Makloufi who coordinates the groups' actions in the Sahel "katiba" or fighting cells, were all at the meeting, according to corroborating sources.
Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghaly was also present.
The fighters from both groups have been dominant in the north of Mali after seizing its main cities in the days following a coup in Bamako on March 22. Tuareg separatist rebels and other criminal groups also have a hold in the area.
Ansar Dine has set about imposing Islamic law, Sharia, in the areas under its control.
On Thursday AQIM chief Abu Musab Abdul Wadud advised his militants to proceed slowly with the implementation of Sharia for the successful creation of an Islamic State.
The north African branch of the terrorist network has its roots in Algeria, and has notably been involved in the kidnapping of westerners for ransom in recent years, several of whom have been killed.
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