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01.11.13

Mali's in Trouble

The Financial Times reports that Mali, which has already been approved for troop help by the UN Security Council, is begging member nations to move up the timeline for getting boots on the ground. The beleagured nation has been direly impacted by troop and weapon flows into its north from neighbor Libya.

Mali has requested urgent international military assistance from France after Islamist rebels drove the army out of a town in the centre of the country. The move by the al-Qaeda-linked militants marked the first clashes with government troops since the rebels took control of Mali’s vast north last April, and raised fears that they may try to move further south towards the city of Mopti. ...

Mali’s army is weak, and was unable to contain a rebellion by Tuareg and Islamist forces that started in Mali’s north a year ago. When officers upset at the lack of government support for the army staged a coup in March, troops completely withdrew from the north. The well-armed Islamist groups, which include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and which have enlisted foreign fighters, then quickly pushed the Tuaregs aside.

Mali’s army has a significant presence in Mopti, a city of roughly 100,000 people which until this week was not considered under serious threat. But after nine months of consolidating control in the north, especially in the larger towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, where they have implemented sharia law, convoys of rebels moved closer to the front lines on Monday, drawing warning fire from Malian troops.