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.