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.


Six dead in fire at Rohingya camp in Myanmar

Updated 49 min 28 sec ago
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Six dead in fire at Rohingya camp in Myanmar

  • The UN Human Rights Council has accused top Myanmar generals of genocide over the bloody campaign, allegations the country strongly denies.
  • Myanmar has vowed to close nearly 20 of the camps around Sittwe in the coming months.

YANGON, Myanmar: Six Rohingya were killed early Friday after a blaze tore through an overcrowded camp for the persecuted minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the local fire service said.
Global attention has focused on the 720,000 Rohingya Muslims forced from the state’s north into Bangladesh last year by a brutal military crackdown.
The UN Human Rights Council has accused top Myanmar generals of genocide over the bloody campaign, allegations the country strongly denies.
But less visible are the 129,000 Rohingya confined to squalid camps further south near the capital Sittwe following an earlier bout of violence in 2012.
Hundreds were killed that year in riots between Rakhine Buddhists and the stateless minority, who were corralled into destitute camps away from their former neighbors.
The conflagration in Ohndaw Chay camp, which houses some 4,000 Rohingya and lies 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Sittwe, started just before midnight and lasted several hours, fire department official Han Soe told AFP.
“Six people, one man and five women were killed,” he said, adding that 15 communal longhouses were also destroyed in the blaze thought to have been started in a kitchen accident.
“We were able to bring the fire under control about 1:10 am this morning and had put it out completely by around 3 am,” he said.
A total of 822 people were left without shelter, local media reported.
Conditions in the camps are dire and Rohingya trapped there have virtually no access to health care, education and work, relying on food handouts from aid agencies to survive.
Access into the camps is also tightly controlled, effectively cutting their inhabitants off from the outside world and leaving their plight largely forgotten.
Fires in the camps are common because of “severe” overcrowding, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Many camp residents have built makeshift extensions to their shelters to create more space for their families. So when a fire breaks out, it is more likely to spread quickly,” said OCHA spokesman Pierre Peron.
Hla Win, a Rohingya man from a nearby camp, told AFP that fire trucks were slow to arrive along the dilapidated roads from Sittwe and the lack of water also hampered efforts to extinguish the blaze.
“We have no ponds near the camps,” he said. “That’s why the fire destroyed so much.”
Myanmar has vowed to close nearly 20 of the camps around Sittwe in the coming months.
Rights groups say the move will achieve little without ending movement restrictions or granting Rohingya a pathway to citizenship.