News / Africa

Mali Calls for Rapid Reaction Force for Islamist Fight

FILE - Newly-elected Mali president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, speaks during a news conference in Bamako, Mali, Aug. 4, 2013.
FILE - Newly-elected Mali president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, speaks during a news conference in Bamako, Mali, Aug. 4, 2013.
Mali's newly-elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita called on Thursday for nations in the Sahara region to create a regional multilateral force that could intervene quickly to respond to the ongoing Islamist threat across the area.
Attacks in Niger, growing instability in southern Libya and clashes between Tunisian government troops and Islamist militants have shown how al-Qaida-linked rebels have taken advantage of a security vacuum in the region since French-led forces intervened in Mali earlier this year to oust them.

Despite the presence in Mali of some 3,200 French troops and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), trafficking routes across West Africa remain wide open, from Mauritania on the Atlantic coast, through Algeria and Mali, into Niger and Libya, officials say.

Regional rivalries are aggravating the problem for Paris and its Western allies, with a lack of cooperation between Saharan countries helping militants to melt away when they come under pressure and regroup in quieter parts of the vast desert.

"This sort of initiative has been difficult, but facing the terrorist threat we need to find a solution,'' Keita, who was elected in August, told a high-level meeting on the Sahel region during the U.N. General Assembly.

The session focused on discussing an integrated strategy proposed by the United Nations ranging from security to humanitarian and economic issues ahead of a November fact-finding mission by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Sahel.

"The level of fragility is still high in the region and international focus is beginning to wane,'' U.N. Sahel special envoy Romano Prodi said. "The possibility of criminal and terrorist activities remains very high.''

The Sahel stretches from Mauritania in the west to Eritrea in the east, including Burkina Faso, Chad, and Sudan, a belt dividing the Sahara desert and the savannahs to the south.

France's intervention in Mali was aimed at heading off the risk of the country being used as a springboard for jihadist attacks in the wider region or Europe.

With Paris still needed to provide much of the logistics, the planned reduction of its troop numbers is behind schedule, although officials say it still aims to reduce its numbers to 1,000 by year-end leaving behind that force to intervene if needed in Mali and elsewhere.

"The situation in Mali has been stabilized, but that doesn't mean that it is in all of the Sahel,'' French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters. "While the terrorists in Mali have been neutralized, some have been able to escape elsewhere, so we need to be vigilant and need a regional approach.''

He added that his country would host African heads of state in Paris in December to come up with a common security plan.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs