Some 200 young Malians who are members of jihadist groups operating in the country’s Mopti region, have agreed to lay down their arms.
The move follows a joint government and civil society deradicalization programme.
Former Mayor of Mpoti, Hama Cisse said “for the last weeks, we have overseen talks with and an awareness campaign for young people who had joined radical armed groups in the center of Mali.”
Cisse said “two hundred young people have agreed to lay down their arms and leave the ranks of the jihadists.”
According to the civil society groups, the young fighters are mostly members of the Macina Liberation Front (LWF), a jihadist group led by radical Malian preacher, Amadou Kufa.
The group which came to prominence in January 2015 when it began claiming responsibility for attacks in central and southern Mali is seeking to restore the 19th century Macina Empire. It is an allied group of Ansar Dine.
The awareness campaign which lasted several weeks was not publicized but involved government officials, local politicians, religious leaders and other prominent figures.
Mopti borders the northern area of Mali that was overrun by al-Qaida-linked extremist groups and Tuareg-led rebels in 2012.
According to Ousmane Diallo, a member of the collective, some young people “provided details on attacks by Islamist groups to which they belonged,” while others were acting “in isolated groups,” picking on civilians and state symbols.
Malian, French and U.N. forces are attempting to maintain order over vast stretches of desert where extremist groups roam after being ousted from key northern towns after a French-led intervention in 2013.