France to deploy its more troops to Mali

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
[GFX ©]
Bamako: France plans to add to its 750 troops now in Mali until an African-led force is in place to help Mali's army battle the Islamist militants who control the country's north.

President Francois Hollande said Tuesday it could take a week for the West African troops to deploy.  He also said French jets carried out another round of air strikes overnight against the rebels, who are pushing into new areas to the south.

Sonny Ugoh, communications director for the Economic Community of West African States, says that some of the 3,000 troops authorised by the United Nations Security Council last month will arrive as early as Tuesday.

Initially, those forces had not been expected before September, but Ugoh says ECOWAS members have expressed a need for urgency after militants pressed an offensive that included capturing the town of Diabaly on Monday.

French United Nations Ambassador Gerard Araud said Monday that a Nigerian general who will lead the African force is already in the Malian capital, Bamako.  The neighboring countries of Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal also promise to send troops.

France deployed forces in Mali on Friday.  Araud says the government decided to offer military help because it was worried the rebels could possibly take the capital.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Monday welcomes the French-led military intervention, saying he hopes the action will help to stop the rebels' offensive.

Al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists seized control of northern Mali soon after renegade soldiers toppled the government in March, leaving a temporary power vacuum.  The militants have imposed harsh conservative Islamic law across the north.

Mali is a former French colony and France still has a variety of economic and political interests there.

Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore has declared a state of emergency and has called on every Malian to help in the war effort.

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