Support for military action has been growing. The African Union and the West African political bloc are pushing for a 3,000-soldier intervention force to enter Mali. Two major powers, France and the United States, are known to be extremely concerned about the Islamist radical groups in northern Mali, and could also favour intervention.
The United States is already using small unmarked airplanes to spy on the activities of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), one of the militant Islamist groups in northern Mali, according to a report this week in the Washington Post.
The U.S. turboprop airplanes, loaded with hidden sensors and surveillance technology, are searching for AQIM from secret bases in Mauritania and Burkina Faso, the report said. The United States has also spent millions of dollars on anti-terrorism military training in Mali – although some of its trainees later became leaders of the army coup in Mali this year, to the Pentagon’s embarrassment.
France, meanwhile, says it would support a military intervention in Mali if it is approved by the United Nations Security Council. As the former colonial power in the region, France is a key player in Mali, and its support could be crucial for any military intervention. Six citizens of France are currently held hostage by AQIM, probably in Mali’s north.
West African leaders have warned that jihadi fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan are helping train the Islamists in Mali. Even the Nigerian radical group Boko Haram is reported to have a presence in northern Mali now.
“There is a threat of terrorist groups setting up in northern Mali,” said France’s new president, Francois Hollande. “There is outside intervention that is destabilizing Mali and setting up groups whose vocation goes well beyond Mali, in Africa and perhaps beyond.”
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