Harouna Traore, Associated Press
BAMAKO, Mali — African leaders met in the capital of the troubled nation of Mali on Friday to prepare their plan for a military intervention to take back the nation's northern half, which was overrun by al-Qaida-linked rebels more than six months ago.
The high-level meeting follows the passing of a United Nations Security Council resolution last week which gives Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 45 days to help Mali develop a detailed plan to recover the occupied territory.
The United States, France and Britain have said they will offer logistical support, but the invasion needs to be led by African troops. The meeting brings together representatives from the West African nations bordering Mali, the chair of the African Union and envoys from the United Nations.
"There is the serious threat that the entrenchment of terrorist and criminal networks poses to Mali, the region and beyond," said Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union on the sidelines of the conference on Friday. "This is a threat we cannot afford to take lightly, and the danger extends far beyond Africa. The sooner we deal with it, the better."
Mali's Interim President Dioncounda Traore spoke of the growing abuses in the north, where the Islamist groups have imposed Shariah law, banning music, and forcing women to cover themselves. A couple accused of adultery was stoned to death and at least seven accused thieves have had their hands amputated.
The Islamists have also pulverized the UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites in the northern city of Timbuktu, arguing that the tombs of local saints amounted to idolatry.
"It's in Mali that we stone people to death. It's in Mali that we cut off people's hands. It's in Mali that we flog people in public. It's in Mali that we hit women. It's in Mali that we desecrate the tombs of the dead. This risks being a threat for the entire world," said Traore. "Help us help Mali so that it can once again become the solution and not a problem for its neighbors."
For decades up until this March, Mali was considered one of the only stable democracies in the region, a reputation it lost in a matter of hours when renegade soldiers led an impromptu coup on March 22.
In the chaos that followed, the military hierarchy was no longer respected, and the rebels in the country's north were able to push forward, seizing the three major provincial capitals. Initially they were led by a secular group that wanted to create an independent homeland for Mali's Tuaregs.
Their rebellion was hijacked by the Islamist groups, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which became the de facto rulers of the north in June, after forcing the secular groups to beat a retreat.
"The groups in the north of Mali are applying their version of Shariah," said Jan Eliasson, the U.N.'s deputy secretary-general. "We need to act to put a stop to these terrorist groups."
The resolution adopted at the United Nations last week invokes Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter, which opens the door to military intervention and enforcement of the council's decisions. It also calls for help from the European Union to help train and assist the Malian army to retake the north.
- 'Fast & Furious 6' is fast, furious and...
- Why $1 billion doesn't mean what it used to...
- Salt Lake City ranked the 14th healthiest...
- BYU animation program earns star treatment...
- LDS veterans share inspiring stories of...
- 'Epic' and other animated films become great...
- Life lessons from 'Toy Story,' 'Up' and 6...
- Sherry Young: Life is like growing roses, if...
- 'Star Trek: Into Darkness' does $70.6M... 8
- Star Trek money tips to live long and... 4
- Founding member of The Doors dies at 74 1
- ESPN cutting workforce, 'smartly... 1
- New TV show will feature live firings 1
- KUED review: 'Brigham Street' a glimpse... 1
- H&M leads efforts to improve factory... 1
- Salt Lake City ranked the 14th... 1