Bamako - An Islamist splinter group Wednesday said that Malian and West African troops should not enter the far-northern region of Kidal partly under their control before a “political solution” is reached with Bamako.

The Islamic Movement of Azawad, which last week broke from Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) saying it was ready for peace talks, made the demand in a statement after French troops took the airport at Kidal, 1 500 kilometres (930 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako.

It said it was launching “an urgent appeal to the international community and France to see that the Malian army and ECOWAS forces do not enter... the region of Kidal before a political solution is found,” referring to soldiers pledged by the Economic Community of West African States regional bloc.

“It's the only condition” the group was imposing “to fully contribute to the fight against terrorism and the definite resolution to the crisis,” the statement added.

France swept to Mali's aid on January 11 as the Islamists advanced south towards Bamako, sparking fears that the whole country could become a haven for terrorists, and now has 3 500 troops on the ground. - Sapa-AFP