Since Mali's independence from France in 1960, rebel groups in the country's arid north - mostly comprised of ethnic Tuaregs - have sought a state of their own. After a coup toppled Mali's government in 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) gained control of much of the north and proclaimed an independent state. However, Azawad has not been recognised by any foreign countries.
Although the rebel movement's leaders have been holding talks with the Malian government in neighbouring Burkina Faso, they are no longer discussing forming an independent state - at least, not publicly. But the militiamen on the ground still hope for a country of their own.