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Japan Offers New Aid to Mali, Sahel Region

A sign for the radical Islamist group MUJAO is seen in Douentza, Mali, January 29, 2013.
Japan is offering $120 million in new aid to help counter the influence of Islamists in Mali and to stabilize the Sahel region of Africa.

The foreign ministry Tuesday said part of the aid would reinforce the African-led International Support Mission (AFISMA), the U.N.-backed multi-national military operation helping to wrest control of northern Mali from Islamist rebels.

It also said the assistance would help strengthen governance, promote security and reduce poverty in the Sahel, a drought-ridden territory stretching from Senegal to Chad.

Japan already has given $63 million in aid to the region over the past year. It is still reeling after 10 of its citizens were killed in an Islamist raid on an Algerian gas plant in the Saharan desert earlier this month.

At least 37 foreigners died during the four-day hostage crisis at the Ain Amenas gas complex, which was attacked by militants claiming revenge for Algeria's support of the international intervention in Mali.

At the request of its former colony, France sent troops into Mali this month to help the country's army stop the offensive of rebels, who controlled much of the northern part of the country and were pushing south. The mission also is being assisted by AFISMA, which has U.N. Security Council backing.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.