Bamko: Two rebel groups that seized northern Mali have reportedly agreed to merge and create an independent Islamic state to rule the north of the country.
The Tuareg rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a secular rebel group, and the Islamist group Ansar Dine signed the deal in the town of Gao.
Residents said there was celebratory gunfire in Gao and Timbuktu after the agreement.
According to the BBC, Ansar Dine, which has ties to al Qaeda, has already begun to impose Sharia law in some towns.
The groups took advantage of a coup in March to seize the territory.
Earlier, the MNLA had remained secular, resisting Ansar Dine''s efforts to impose Islamic law in towns.
According to the report, the deal is yet another worrying development for Mali and may complicate efforts to stabilise the country.
First Published: Sunday, May 27, 2012, 13:19