West African bloc agrees to send 8,000 soldiers to Mali

Photo: West African bloc agrees to send 8,000 soldiers to Mali / Other Countries

West African bloc ECOWAS on Thursday agreed to double the number of troops it would send to Mali, to 8,000, as a two-day summit of ended in Ivory Coast, DPA reported.

The 15-member Economic Community of West African States "will ensure that the immediate needs concerning the deployment of additional troops and logistics and budget increase are met and without delay," commission chairman Kadre Desire Ouedraogo said.

The ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council had Monday called to increase the number of West African soldiers to be deployed with the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to 8,000 troops instead of the planned 3,700.

A French-led international operation engaging Mali's military and troops from West African countries was launched on January 11, aiming at flushing out Islamist rebels from Mali's north.

Chadian President Idris Deby Wednesday urged the regional army chiefs to speed up troop deployment, and UN Secretary General for West Africa Said Djinnit said the United Nations was mulling the deployment of a peacekeeping force to Mali "at the appropriate time."

Ouedraogo urged Mali's government to ensure reconciliation and hold a national forum including the northern communities.

Meanwhile, the Malian army said it would investigate five soldiers accused of committing atrocities against civilians.

"The five soldiers were said by local people to be linked to the disappearance of some Arab merchants in Timbuktu," army spokesman Captain Modibo Traore told dpa.

He said the soldiers had been taken to the capital Bamako and "will be brought before the disciplinary board, which will decide their fate if the charges against them were well-founded."

Mali's army has been accused by international human rights organizations of having committed abuses against civilians, especially those of Arab and Tuareg origin.

"I think the political authorities must now establish a national commission of inquiry into human rights issues," Traore said.

Human Rights Watch last week called on Mali's government to "investigate and prosecute soldiers responsible for torture, summary executions, and enforced disappearances of suspected Islamist rebels and alleged collaborators since the fighting."

On Thursday, Germany's parliament authorized with an overwhelming majority a 330-member military contingent for the intervention.

The country has already sent three transport aircraft to shift French and West African troops, and is set to deploy military trainers, a medical team and an aerial refuelling plane to Mali.

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