The West African nation of Mali has descended into chaos this week, sparking fears in the region that 'Islamist' rebel groups haven taken control in much of the country.
Hundreds fled Mali overnight and surrounding countries began to consider military intervention.
Western powers are also showing reinvigorated signs of interest. The UN Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire on Wednesday and officials from France pushed for talks between Mali rebels and the current junta in an attempt to influence 'unity against al Qaeda'.
US officials have begun talks with Algeria, Mali's neighbors to the north. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika met General Carter Ham, who heads the US Command for Africa (AFRICOM) in Algiers on Wednesday.
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Hundreds fled lawless northern Mali overnight and the country's neighbours weighed a military intervention on Thursday amid fears Al Qaeda-linked Islamists are turning the country into a rogue state.
Alarmed by the rapid collapse of the west African nation which has split into a rebel-controlled north and junta-controlled south in two weeks since a coup, the world grappled for a response and a place to lay the blame. [...]
As the Tuareg trumpeted the success of a decades-old struggle to "liberate" their homeland, their fundamentalist comrades-turned-rivals began imposing sharia in northern Mali, also leaving an embattled junta looking very vulnerable in Bamako.
The UN Security Council on Wednesday called for an immediate ceasefire but proposed no firm action to reverse a sequence that has seen a country hailed as a democratic success story descend into chaos in barely two weeks.
The United States, which had grown increasingly concerned since the collapse of Moamer Kadhafi's Libya scattered weapons across the region, engaged talks with Algeria, the most powerful of Mali's seven neighbours. [...]
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika met General Carter Ham, who heads the US Command for Africa (AFRICOM) in Algiers on Wednesday.
They had in-depth talks on the security situation in Mali, Carter told the Algerian news agency.
Military cooperation and anti-terrorism coordination were also discussed during the talks, attended by several other top officials from both sides, including Washington's top Africa diplomat Johnnie Carson. [...]
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In Ivory Coast, the military chiefs of the nations bordering Mali met Thursday to hash out their plan for a military intervention. Deputy Ivorian Defense Minister Paul Koffi Koffi said military action is being considered both to reverse the coup that deposed Mali's president last month, as well as to preserve Mali's territorial integrity after the rebel advance in the north.
He instructed the army chiefs of the 15 nations in West Africa to draft a detailed plan, including how many troops each intends to send, how quickly they could ready them and what logistical means they plan to contribute.
In Paris, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France is ready to help African forces on a logistical level. The chief of staff of the French army, Adm. Edouard Guillaud, traveled Thursday to Burkina Faso to discuss details with the president.
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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday there could only be a resolution to the Tuareg-led rebellion in the north of Mali through a political dialogue and urged regional cooperation to fight al Qaeda's expansion in the area.
For long one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, Mali has plunged into turmoil since a widely condemned coup on March 22 that emboldened Tuareg rebels to seize half the country in their quest for a northern homeland. [...]
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is still looking at military plans after imposing sanctions on Mali, but officials say the junta would have to stand down before outsiders would help Bamako. [...]
He said it could take time for ECOWAS to deploy 3,000 troops in Mali, so France would be ready to provide logistical support, although he ruled out direct military intervention.
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