Mali and France discuss Al-Qaeda threat

5th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

The two countries discuss the growing threat posed by the north African branch of Al-Qaeda and may hold regional security talks in the autumn.

Bamako – Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure on Tuesday had talks with France's junior cooperation minister Alain Joyandet about the growing threat from the regional branch of Al-Qaeda, a French diplomat said.

Like other Western countries, France is concerned about the development of the north African branch of Al-Qaeda, which has stepped up attacks in recent years in the sub-Saharan Sahel, particularly in Mali and Mauritania.

A French diplomatic source said Toure was aware of the regional stakes and wanted to organise a conference with Niger, Mauritania, Algeria, Libya, Chad and possibly Sudan.

Any such talks would take place after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in the autumn, said the official.

Joyandet himself told reporters: "We spoke a great deal about security, military training and education."

A hardline Muslim fundamentalist movement, Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has grown out of Algeria's radical Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and become active in the Sahel.

In July, Toure announced a "total struggle" against AQIM and, according to Malian military officers. Dozens of people were killed on 4 July during clashes in the Timbuktu region between the army and AQIM fighters.

On 17 June, Mali's army announced that it had killed 26 "Islamist fighters" in the far north of the country.

In recent months, AQIM has taken four European tourists and two Canadian diplomats hostage in Mali and neighbouring Niger. They executed a British tourist, Edwin Dyer, but released the others.

France and the United States are both helping Mali to fight rebel activity in the region.

Paris has provided the Malian security forces with 28 troop transport vehicles and two light reconnaissance planes, and the French military has long helped to train the Malian army.

AFP / Expatica

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