Africa

UN asks for more troops, helicopters for Mali force

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The United Nations has appealed for more troops and helicopters for its peacekeeping mission in the West African country of Mali.

The UN force, known as MINUSMA, took over security duties in July from a UN-backed African force in Mali. It has some 5,200 troops of its mandated strength of more than 12,000 military personnel.

Bert Koenders, the UN’s special representative to Mali, said the force must have more resources in order to stabilize the north of the country.

“We are faced with severe challenges,” Koenders told the UN Security Council. “The mission lacks critical enablers – such as helicopters – to facilitate rapid deployment and access to remote areas to ensure the protection of civilians. Troop generation will have to accelerate.”

Earlier this month, Mali’s Tuareg and Arab rebels said they would resume peace negotiations with the government.

The rebels, who are fighting to gain autonomy in the northern region of the country, made the announcement on October 5, nine days after they staged a walkout from the talks, which were held in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso.

The truce accord was mediated by regional African powers, the United Nations and the European Union.

France launched a war in Mali on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of rebel fighters in the country.

On February 1, Amnesty International said “serious human rights breaches” — including the killing of children — were occurring in the French war in Mali.

Chaos broke out in the West African country after Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup in response to the government’s inability to contain the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country, which had been going on for two months.

However, in the wake of the coup d’état, the Tuareg rebels took control of the entire northern desert region, but the Ansar Dine extremists then pushed them aside and took control of the region, which is larger than France or Texas.

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