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.

 

Iraq’s peshmerga ‘break’ Mount Sinjar siege

Yemen’s Huthis seize Sanaa state offices

Tough times for oil-rich GCC

Obama concerned about Egypt mass trials

Tumbling oil prices cut budgets of Mideast arms exporters

Turkey acquits sociologist over 1998 explosion

EU foreign affairs head to visit Iraq

Turkey court remands Samanyolu TV chief in custody

IS threatens to kill Lebanese soldiers held hostage

Turkish media chiefs charged with terrorism

Iraq may delay payment of Kuwait war reparations

Over $900 million needed to help Syria children

Saudi rules out oil output reduction

Dutch populist lawmaker to be tried for 'fewer Moroccans' vow

Outrage in Algeria over Islamist call for Algerian author's death

Iraq Kurds, coalition launch offensive to retake Sinjar

Three years to end Israeli occupation in UN resolution

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications

Turkey FM visit to Iran highlights Syria divide

UK troops mistreated Iraq detainees in 2004

Saudi to carry on massive public spending

Iran to Australia: We warned you about the gunman

From bikini to Jihad in Ceuta, Melilla

Tunisia votes Sunday in second round of presidential poll

Islamist militias launch air strike near key Libyan oil terminals

Egypt refers 312 Islamists to military courts

Turkey rejects EU criticism over media arrests

Kerry meets chief Palestinian negotiator

Saudi cleric sparks uproar for showing wife’s face

15,000 march against country’s ‘Islamisation’ in eastern Germany

Key oil producers face uncertain outlook in 2015

Gulf stock markets tumble

Australia mourns Sydney cafe siege victims

Hostages flee as police storm Sydney café

Erdogan to EU: Mind your own business!

Syria PM in Iran for talks with key ally

22 Swiss jihadists fighting abroad

#illridewithyou: Australians stand in solidarity with Muslims

Sydney siege 'lone wolf' or IS-led attack?

EU support UN efforts for Aleppo ceasefire

Saudi policeman killed in Riyadh hostage-taking

Saudi king receives Jordan monarch

Palestinians push UN bid to end Israeli occupation