The United Nations has appealed for more troops and helicopters so its peacekeeping mission in Mali can stabilise the north of the country and protect civilians from attacks by Islamist extremist and armed groups.
The UN force assumed authority on 1 July from a UN-backed African force in Mali. But while the UN Security Council mandated a force, there are only 5,200 troops on the ground.
UN Mali envoy Bert Koenders told the UN Security Council: “The mission lacks critical enablers – such as helicopters – to facilitate rapid deployment and access to remote areas to ensure the protection of civilians. Troop generation will have to accelerate.”
The mission was dealt a blow by the withdrawal in August of some 1,200 Nigerian troops. Tuareg separatists and Islamist rebels seized three northern regions last year as the government disintegrated following a March 2012 coup.
A successful seven-month-old campaign by France to destroy the Islamist enclave has killed hundreds of fighters linked to al-Qa’ida.