Senegal starts to send troops to Mali

2013-01-20 21:00:28 GMT2013-01-21 05:00:28(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

DAKAR, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- A group of some 60 soldiers of the 500 men contingent that Senegal has decided to send to Mali as part of the multinational force of West Africa, left Dakar to Bamako on Sunday, local media reported.

Private radio RFM reported the movement but did not give details on the deployment schedule of the Senegalese contingent.

Senegal and countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have announced the dispatch of regional troops to help Mali fight against rebel groups who have occupied the north of the country and are considered a threat to other countries in the sub-region.

On Wednesday, Senegalese President Macky Sall, through a message to the National Assembly, urged the Senegalese from all sides to unite to support the mission of the contingent of 500 Senegalese soldiers to go to Mali.

According to the president, any threat affecting Mali would also be a concern of Senegal.

Under a UN Security Council mandate, the African regional bloc ECOWAS has decided to mobilize a multinational force of 3,300 troops to help the Malian government fight against the rebels who occupied the northern half of the country in March 2012 following a military coup.

The rebel groups, believed to be backed by al-Qaida, were regarded as a threat to the regional security as well as Mali's central government.

They attacked the government military stronghold of Kanno in central Mali on Jan. 9, posing a threat to capital Bamako.

France, which took the rebels movement as a threat to its interest, quickly dispatched armed forces to the West African country to support the government forces to push back the rebels.

In the past week or so, the French forces have bombarded the rebels and helped the Malian government retake the two towns that the rebels had overrun recently in the battles.

Troops from other member countries of ECOWAS are arriving to Mali group by group.

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