West Africa Defense Chiefs to Finalize Mali Deployment Plans

Posted September 12th, 2012 at 8:45 am (UTC-5)
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West African defense chiefs will meet Friday to finalize plans to deploy troops in Mali, where Islamist militants control the north.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says the meeting follows an invitation from Mali's government for the deployment of the troops.

A French official reported such a request from Mali's interim president last week, but the country's government has not confirmed the report.

The defense chiefs are due to meet Friday and Saturday in Abidjan.

ECOWAS says the first phase of the deployment would provide security for officials and institutions of Mali's transitional government. It says the second phase calls for ECOWAS to train Mali's army and support its effort to recapture the north.

Islamist groups linked to al-Qaida now control about two-thirds of Mali's national territory.

The Islamists along with Tuareg separatists seized control of the north in April after a coup in the capital, Bamako. Since then, armed groups Ansar Dine and MUJAO have pushed out the separatists and moved to enforce a strict version of Islamic law.

The United Nations says fighting in the north this year has displaced more than 450,000 people.