First Published: 2012-11-06

 

West African army chiefs meet to discuss Mali intervention plan

 

Army chiefs meet to study proposal drafted by international experts on how their troops could expel Islamic extremists who have occupied northern Mali.

 

Middle East Online

By Serge Daniel - BAMAKO

How will Mali crisis end? Intervention, or dialogue?

West African army chiefs met Tuesday to study a proposal drafted by international experts on how their troops could expel Islamic extremists who have occupied northern Mali for months.

The meeting comes seven months after radicals linked to the north African Al-Qaeda branch took over the vast arid north, triggering fears in the region and among Western powers that the zone could become a new haven for terrorists.

Diplomatic efforts for a military solution have intensified, but negotiations are also under way to get the main Islamist group Ansar Dine to cut ties with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, with talks in Algiers and Ouagadougou.

Military bosses from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need to approve the details for an eventual military operation which were decided during a week-long meeting of international experts in Bamako.

"It is about coming to a rapid agreement on an operational concept to help Mali quickly reconquer its north," said Mali's army chief General Soumaila Bakayoko.

"I can confirm that we are ready to play our role."

The plan will then be passed to regional heads of state for approval before being presented to the UN Security Council on November 26.

The United Nations wants clarification on the makeup of a regional force, the level of participation from various west African states, and the financing and military means available.

Guinea's former transition leader General Sekouba Konate, who was charged by the African Union with leading the standby force, also attended the meeting.

"I want to pay tribute to the work which has led to the development of the plan. The crises which Mali is facing are detrimental to peace in the sub-region," Konate said.

"Mali can count on its friends, its partners from the standby force, to respect its territorial integrity."

Mali, once one of the region's most stable democracies, has rapidly imploded since a Tuareg rebellion for independence began in January and rapidly overwhelmed the state's poorly equipped army.

Angry over the government's handling of the crisis, soldiers staged a coup in March, which only made it easier for the rebels to seize a string of desert towns such as Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.

The secular separatists were quickly sidelined by Islamists fighting on their flanks who had little interest in their aspirations for an independent homeland and set about implementing strict sharia law.

Ansar Dine ("Defenders of Faith" in Arabic) and AQIM splinter group the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) have stoned people to death, whipped them, amputated limbs and forced women to cover up.

However in talks in Ougadougou Ansar Dine delegates insist their group -- made up mainly of Malian Tuareg like its chief, Iyad Ag Ghaly -- has not committed "any act of terrorism" and favours a negotiated settlement to the crisis.

Their team in Burkina Faso will on Tuesday meet the country's President Blaise Compaore, who is the lead ECOWAS mediator.

The 16-nation west African bloc has demanded that Ansar Dine end "terror and organised crime" in the region, abandon its allies and engage in a dialogue to re-establish a unified Mali.

This will involve further negotiations with Bamako -- where a fragile interim government has struggled to assert itself -- as well as the Tuareg rebel group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

Another Ansar Dine delegation is in Algeria for talks.

Algeria, with its superior military, counter-terrorism and intelligence capabilities, is seen as key to any military operation but has been hesitant to get involved, preferring a negotiated solution.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the north African heavyweight last week to lobby for support in ousting the extremists.

It is expected that up to 4,000 African troops could be sent to Mali, regional experts have said, without ruling out the possibility of non-African troops taking part in the military operation.

 

Qatar blocks planes from transporting pilgrims

Russia destroys large column of IS fighters in Syria

Erdogan says joint op with Iran against Kurds ‘on the agenda’

Barcelona attack fugitive ‘dangerous, possibly armed’ warn police

In Egypt, Syrian refugees recreate Syria

Spanish police shoot dead man who could be Barcelona attacker

Iraqi forces close in on last IS bastion in country’s north

Kuwait arrests 13 fugitives in Iran-linked terror case

Lebanese president ratifies public sector wage rise, tax hike

Young Syrian refugees want end of war and ISIS

Lebanon army advances against IS in border battle

Spanish police say driver of Barcelona rampage van identified

Toxic politics in Italy, Libya further complicate migration problem

Assad says no Syria ties for countries backing rebels

In African tour, Sisi seeks to rebuild ties, address security and water concerns

Syria’s transition scenarios for future rounds of talks

Iraqi Kurds may postpone referendum in return for concessions

Dubai real estate market sets the pace for renewed growth in the GCC

German-Turkish intellectual held at Ankara’s request

Jordan’s municipal elections marred by deaths, riots

Rouhani says top priority is protecting nuclear deal from US

Russia doubts IS claim of stabbing attack in northern city

Turkey slams 'arrogant' German reaction to Erdogan poll call

Police confirm Finland 'terror attack'

Spain hunts suspects as IS claims attack

Aid project helps Syria refugees feel at home in Jordan

Lebanese army launches anti-IS offensive on Syria border

UN demands access to Yemen ports

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans

Forces of Libya's Haftar say commander wanted by ICC in detention

Yemen rebels urged to free political commentator

Iranian footballer breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

Erdogan meddles in German politics

IS fighters almost encircled in Syrian desert

For Israel, White House ties trump neo-Nazis and antisemitism

Israel freezes implementation of settlement law

Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports

13 dead, 100 injured in two Spanish seaside city attacks

Iran reform leader ends hunger strike

Van ploughs through pedestrians in Barcelona terror attack

13 killed in Barcelona van attack

Iraq acknowledges abuses in Mosul campaign

Netanyahu under fire for response to US neo-Nazism

Israel to free high-profile suspects in money laundering probe

Spanish police shut down jet-ski migrant smugglers