France will triple the number of soldiers currently in Mali in an attempt to battle Islamist rebels that have taken over the northern two-thirds of the country.
French President François Hollande on Tuesday detailed France’s plans to remove the rebels, most of whom are Islamic extremists aligned with al-Qaeda.
“Our objectives are as follows: one, stop terrorists seeking to control the country including the capital Bamako; two, we want to ensure that Bamako is secure—several thousand French nationals live there; three, enable Mali to retake its territory,” Hollande said at a press conference in the United Arab Emirates, according to broadcaster France24.
Sources with the French Defense Ministry told the network that France will increase the number of troops in Mali to 2,500. France has already deployed 750 soldiers to Mali.
France’s moves have prompted questions regarding a potential United States deployment in the North African country.
But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stressed that there would be no U.S. soldiers going to Mali. However, he said that the United States will provide logistical support, and is already providing intelligence support to France in its fight against the Islamist rebels.
“We have a responsibility to go after al-Qaeda wherever they are. And we’ve gone after them in the [Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas]. We’re going after them in Yemen and Somalia. And we have a responsibility to make sure that al-Qaeda does not establish a base for operations in North Africa and Mali,” Panetta told reporters Tuesday, according to CNN.
However, there are indicators that the United States will not directly support the Malian government and military in the conflict due to lingering political problems resulting from a coup in March 2012 in the country.
France’s intervention received unanimous support from the United Nations Security Council Monday.
“All our allies have recognized that France is acting in accordance to international law and the U.N. charter,” France Ambassador to the U.N. Gerard Araud told reporters, according to France24.
Last year, Tuareg and Islamist rebels launched a series of key attacks on towns in northern Mali before the Islamist rebels pushed the Tuaregs out, and instated their own rule and imposed their own brand of Shariah law. There have been numerous reports of human rights violations documented by human rights groups.
The rebels have also destroyed a number of Muslim shrines, including UNESCO sites in the ancient and famed city of Timbuktu, saying they contravene Islamic law.
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