BAMAKO, March 8, (AFP): Two hundred young Malian jihadists are ready to lay down their weapons as part of a new government and civil society deradicalisation programme, its organisers said Tuesday. Some of the youths, aged between 16 and 30, had mounted attacks in the central Mopti region over the past year as members of the Macina Liberation Front, sources within the campaign said. “For the last few weeks, we have overseen talks with and an awareness campaign for young people who had joined radical armed groups in the centre of Mali,” said Hama Cisse, a former mayor of a Mopti district. “Two hundred of them agreed to lay down their weapons and leave the ranks of the jihadists,” he added. “They are currently still in the Mopti region to convince their peers to give up their weapons,” Cisse said.
Mopti borders the northern area of Mali that was overrun by al-Qaeda-linked extremist groups and Tuareg-led rebels in 2012. Those involved in central Mali’s jihadist demobilisation drive include representatives from central and local governments, religious leaders and other prominent figures, campaigners told AFP. The young people were not being paid to leave but had received free meals, they said.