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Mali: African generals fast-track regional force

Mali: African generals fast-track regional force
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Military leaders from Mali’s west African neighbours have approved plans to speed up the deployment of a regional force to dislodge Islamist rebels in the north.

In all, they have 3,300 troops to hand for an intervention force that has already won the backing of the UN.

Originally, full deployment was not expected until September because of logistical problems but when columns of Islamist fighters mobilised last week, Mali asked for immediate help.

Of all the countries that comprise the intervention force, the commitment ranges from 900 personnel from the lead partner Nigeria, to 120 troops each from Guinea and Ghana.

That will be on top of 750 French troops already involved, either on the ground or in the air.

The military leaders said the first of the African troops could be on the ground in a week. Their immediate task would be to help stop the advance of the rebels while a full-scale deployment plan is finalised.

However, Nigeria warned that even if some of the force arrives quickly, training will take more time.