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Tuareg Rebels Declare Independence In North Mali

Tuareg rebels in Mali have officially proclaimed the independence of a territory they call Azawad in the north of the West African country.

The United States, the European Union, and the African Union have rejected the declaration.

Aided by Islamist militants, the rebels seized control of the mainly desert area -- larger than France -- late last month following a coup in the capital, Bamako.

In a declaration on April 6, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) called on the international community to recognize the new nation and said it would respect the borders of neighboring states.

The MNLA includes Tuareg fighters returning from Libya, where they backed former leader Muammar Qaddafi. Islamist militants, meanwhile, are seeking to impose Islamic Shari'a law in the north.

Humanitarian groups have warned that Mali is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe as thousands flee the unrest.

The United States has cut off more than $13 million in aid and imposed a travel ban on the coup leaders.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP