W. Africa army chiefs adopt Mali strategy to tackle rebels

Updated 08 November 2012
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W. Africa army chiefs adopt Mali strategy to tackle rebels

BAMAKO: West African army chiefs have adopted a military plan to expel rebels from northern Mali, which they have occupied for seven months, the country's army chief Ibrahim Dembele said.
“We are very satisfied,” Dembele said late Tuesday at the close of a meeting of the military brass in Bamako. “On the whole, the strategy was adopted (and) friendly troops will come here to help Mali reconquer the north.”
The strategic plan is next due to be rubber-stamped by regional heads of state before being presented to the UN Security Council on Nov. 26. The UN wants clarification on the composition of the force, the level of participation from the various west African nations as well as the financing of the operation and the military means to carry it out.
The details of the plan as adopted by the military chiefs have not been made public.
“It is an ambitious plan, we should expect a little over 4,000 people in case of military intervention. We have studied all the parameters, now we await instructions from our heads of state,” said an officer from Benin who attended the meeting.
Presidents from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will study the plan during a meeting expected weekend in Abuja, a source close to the meeting told AFP.
“I really hope things will advance. We must not release pressure on the terrorist groups, everyone must be convinced,” Guinean General Sekouba Konate — who is in charge of the standby force —told AFP.
The meeting came as Ansar Dine, one of the militant groups occupying the north, urged dialogue to solve the crisis and called for a halt to all hostilities, during talks in Burkina Faso.




The seven-month occupation of Mali's vast arid north by militants linked to the north African Al-Qaeda branch has triggered fears in the region and among Western powers that the zone could become a haven for terrorists.


Canadian woman missing in west Africa believed to be alive: PM

In this handout photo released on January 17, 2019 from the Facebook page dedicated to their disappearance, Luca Tacchetto (L) and Edith Blais (R) pose for a selfie picture. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 26 sec ago
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Canadian woman missing in west Africa believed to be alive: PM

  • Smaller groups are also active, with the overall number of fighters estimated to be in the hundreds, according to security sources

MONTREAL: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that a Canadian woman reported missing along with her Italian partner in Burkina Faso is believed to be alive.
“To the best of my knowledge, yes,” Trudeau said in response to a reporter’s question.
“With all that I know so far, I have not been told anything else other than that she is believed to be alive.”
The Canadian government said earlier it was leaving no stone unturned as it tries to determine what exactly happened to Edith Blais, 34, and her companion Luca Tacchetto, 30.
The pair were last seen on December 15 traveling by car in Burkina Faso between the town of Bobo-Dioulasso and the capital Ouagadougou, for a four- or five-day stay.
Kidnappings have increased in the impoverished Sahel state, which has been battling a rising wave of jihadist attacks over the last three years.
A Canadian travel warning had reported a risk of banditry and kidnapping in the area.
Late Wednesday, a Canadian geologist kidnapped at a remote gold mine in northeast Burkina Faso by suspected jihadists was found dead.
Blais and Tacchetto were working on a reforestation project with aid group Zion’Gaia.
Investigators on the ground have found no clues in their disappearance, but a senior Canadian official told AFP on condition of anonymity that they may have fallen victim to a kidnapping or a robbery gone awry.
“All options are being explored,” Canadian International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said after meeting Friday with Blais’ family in Quebec province.
“We are doing everything we can,” she said.
Burkino Faso is in the front line of a jihadist rebellion in the Sahel, a vast, dusty region on the southern rim of the Sahara.
Canada has 250 soldiers and eight army helicopters deployed in neighboring Mali as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.
After chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, an Islamist insurgency gained ground in northern Mali, while Boko Haram rose in northern Nigeria.
Jihadist raids began in northern Burkina Faso in 2015 before spreading to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin.
Most of the attacks have been attributed to Ansarul Islam and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM).
Smaller groups are also active, with the overall number of fighters estimated to be in the hundreds, according to security sources.
The groups are believed to be responsible for more than 270 deaths since 2015.
Ouagadougou has been hit three times, including a coordinated attack last March that targeted the French embassy and devastated the country’s military headquarters.
Eight foreigners have been abducted in the last four years, according to an AFP tally.
Among them is 84-year-old Australian doctor Kenneth Elliott, who was kidnapped with his wife Jocelyn in April 2015 in Djibo, where the pair ran a clinic for the poor.
Jocelyn Elliott was released after a year. Her husband, whose whereabouts remain unknown, has been declared a citizen of Burkina Faso, under a decree issued last November.