The United Nations said Thursday that ex-Gadhafi army officers of Tuareg origin have returned from Libya in large numbers to Mali, where they are fueling an insurgency that precipitated the apparent overthrow of the country's democratically elected president.
The U.N.'s political chief, Lynn Pascoe, briefed the Security Council and later told reporters that a coup d'etat has been carried out in Mali and he echoed the U.N. Secretary-General’s call for the country to quickly return to constitutional order.
Pascoe, when questioned by reporters, said there is a correlation between the fall of Moammar Gadhafi’s government in Libya last year and the influx of Tuareg fighters back into Mali.
“Well, of course, there is a relationship because many of the Tuaregs, a sizeable number, had gone to Libya because there they could earn more money working in the military and other areas. They were welcomed by the Gadhafi regime. We think that somewhere in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 of them returned. Some of them were actually quite high ranking people in the Libyan Army, so there is no doubt. And they also came with weapons with them,” Pascoe said.
Pascoe said that when these groups returned and joined forces with the Tuareg rebellion that has been happening on and off in Mali for many years, they posed a significant challenge for the Malian Army.
“They have clearly added much more firepower and drive to this operation, which made it very difficult for the Malian Army to deal with. And that, at least from their statement, is one of the things that fueled the frustration and the anger of the groups because they did not think that they were being supported strongly enough in the fight against the Tuaregs,” Pascoe said.
The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the seizure of power from the government by some elements of the military. The council called on those who carried out the coup to ensure the safety of President Amadou Toumani Toure and to return to their barracks. The Security Council also called for the immediate restoration of constitutional rule and the democratically-elected government in Mali.