China Offers Support to Mali Military in Fight Against Islamists

China offered to support Mali’s military in its fight against Islamist rebels who have seized northern parts of the country, said Guo Xueli, charge d’affaires at the Chinese Embassy.

“China firmly supports the position of Mali,” Guo said in an interview on state television yesterday in the capital, Bamako. “We are going to bring our assistance to the extent possible, specifically in the military where we already have a very old cooperation.”

Mali’s government has been battling Islamist rebels in the north of the country since they took control of the area from separatist ethnic Touareg fighters in May. The rebels took advantage of a political crisis in the south triggered by the ouster of President Amadou Toure in a March 22 coup.

The transitional government, led by Dioncounda Traore, has been bogged down by internal power struggles and disagreement over the need for foreign troops in the country, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

The interim president earlier this month formally asked for military help from the Economic Community of West African States. The United Nations Security Council said on Sept. 21 it will consider a request from the 15-nation Ecowas for military intervention against the Islamists.

France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, offered to provide logistical support to any West African operation to retake control of northern Mali, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last week.

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