Mali conflict: West African troops to arrive 'in days'

BY: Abigail Bonsu

Troops from a regional West African force will be in Mali within days to help a French intervention against Islamist rebels, Nigeria says.

The force's commander, Gen Shehu Abdulkadir, confirmed the move to the BBC as West African military commanders met in Mali's capital, Bamako.

France has almost 800 troops in Mali, and another 1,700 involved elsewhere.

It began its intervention last Friday with the aim of halting the Islamists' advance south.


Nigeria now plans to provide 900 troops for the force, 300 more than previously announced.

The force is expected to be 3,300 strong. It will be deployed under UN Security Council resolution 2085, which was passed in December.

Nigerian Col Mohammed Yerima said: "The president approved the deployment of a battalion, and in the next 24 hours a company of the battalion will be deployed."

Nigeria has the biggest military in Ecowas, the regional grouping that is overseeing the military response.

Ivory Coast army chief Gen Soumaila Bakayoko said: "We are here today to speak essentially about the engagement alongside our Malian brothers in arms, to liberate the north of Mali."

Benin, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Togo have also pledged troops.

A summit of West African leaders on Saturday is expected to discuss the crisis further, as will a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Thursday. - BBC