The UN Security Council has called for a ‘swift deployment’ of foreign troops to Mali. It has approved plans to send some 3,000 African troops to recapture the country’s north.
French President Francois Hollande has also vowed to stop the advance of al-Qaeda linked rebels who control northern Mali and have headed south in recent days.
In a speech to France’s diplomatic corps, the leader said he was ready to respond to Mali’s call for help.
France “is prepared to stop the terrorist offensive,” Hollande said. He did not provide any specific details.
It comes after Hollande’s Malian counterpart, Dioncounda Traore, sought help from France in order to stem the rebels’ advance. The two leaders will meet in Paris on Wednesday, a French diplomatic source told Reuters.
Resolutions already passed by the UN Security Council on Mali would allow a military intervention by France, the source said.
“With the United Nations resolutions and Mali’s request for help, the legal framework for a direct intervention is already there…we are following the situation on the ground hour by hour. We are going to see whether this offensive continues or not. France’s assistance will depend on the situation on the ground,” he continued.
Until now, France and other EU nations have limited their plans for assistance, offering only training and logistics to support Mali’s army.
Extremists, which have controlled the country’s north for months, captured the city of Konna on Thursday.
“We are actually in Konna for the jihad [holy war],” spokesman for the Ansar Dine militant group, Sanda Abu Mohammed, told AFP.
Ansar Dine and Mujao have controlled most of northern Mali since last April. They formed an alliance with Tuareg rebels following a military coup in March.
However, their alliance quickly collapsed, with the Islamists capturing the area’s urban centers and marginalizing the Tuareg rebels.
The Islamists have been accused of war crimes and attempting to impose strict Sharia law throughout the region, harboring fears that the area could soon become a hub for al-Qaeda linked militants.
The rebels are currently threatening the take over the city of Mopti, which would leave the capital Bamako more vulnerable.
Figthers of the Islamic group Ansar Dine standing guard at Kidal airport, northern Mali (AFP Photo / Romaric Ollo Hien)