Mali’s Islamic Leaders, U.S. Back French-Led Campaign

Mali’s Islamic leaders praised the French-led intervention to oust insurgents controlling two-thirds of the West African nation as the U.S. said it was ready to offer support to the mission.

“The intervention of France in Mali has nothing to do with a fight against Islam,” Mohamoud Dicko, president of the Islamic High Council of Mali, told reporters in Bamako, the capital, today. “It is a fight against crime and terrorism.”

France started airstrikes on Mali’s north on Jan. 11 to back the domestic army in its bid to take control from Islamist militants who seek to impose a strict version of Shariah law on the landlocked nation. Malian troops seized Diabaly and Douentza yesterday after reclaiming Konna on Jan. 18, according to the French Defense Ministry.

African troops will take part in the mission, with troops arriving in the country this week. The continental force may reach 5,500 soldiers, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Jan. 20. The contingent, planned by the African Union before the French strikes started, was initially expected to reach 3,300.

The U.S. is willing to provide support including funding, logistics, medicine and transportation to the mission if African leaders request it, Michael Battle, the U.S. ambassador to the African Union, said in an interview in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday.

“We have a lot of capacity to provide support,” he said. Instability in Mali threatens the wider region, especially neighboring Niger and Algeria, Battle said. “Their peace and stability is dependent on stability and good governance in Mali.”

African leaders will discuss the intervention in Mali during an African Union summit in Addis Ababa on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, and donors will hold a funding conference for the mission on Jan. 29, Battle said.

Mali’s government extended by three months a state of emergency first declared on Jan. 12, according to a statement on the prime minister’s website.

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