The West African regional group ECOWAS on Friday ordered Tuareg rebels to end hostilities against Mali and to give up the territories they occupy. The rebels have killed dozens of people this year. Click here for the news.
The Taureg are an ancient, Berber nomadic people. They are probably descended from ancient Saharan peoples. The Berber are the indigenous people of North Africa west of the Nile valley.
In addition to Mali, significant Taureg populations are found in Algeria, Niger, Libya, and Burkina Faso.
In recent weeks, some 60,000 Malians have been forced from their homes in desert clashes by a Taureg rebel force bolstered by combat-hardened Taureg troops returning from Libya, where they fought on the side of the Ghaddafi regime.
The rebellion is the fourth Taureg insurrection since Mali gained independence from France in 1960. The last uprising ended in 2008.
The rebels' arsenal includes arms taken from Libya--specifically, SA-7, SA-24 and Milan portable missile systems.
The rebels call themselves the MNLA, or National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad--their name for the state they would like to carve out of three regions in Mali's North. The MNLA includes other Saharan tribes people.
Al Qaeda-associated groups are also active in the remote area.