UN needs more troops in Mali
16 October 2013, 19:29
New York - The United Nations on Wednesday appealed for extra troops for its Mali peacekeeping force which faces a new surge in Islamist attacks.
UN special representative to Mali, Bert Koenders, said recent attacks in the north of the country had been "an important wake-up call" over security.
Koenders told the UN Security Council that the international force needs helicopters and troops as it builds up to replace a French force that intervened this year to halt an Islamist takeover.
"Troop generation will have to accelerate," Koenders said in a report on the work of the UN's Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma).
UN members must "do their utmost to enable the rapid deployment of additional enablers and battalions to Mali in order for Minusma to effectively and timely discharge its mandate."
Minusma is meant to eventually reach 12 640 troops and police. At the end of July it had just over 6 000 but Nigerian and some Chadian troops have since withdrawn.
French troops entered Mali in January to halt an advance on the capital Bamako by al-Qaeda linked Islamist troops and allied Tuareg rebels.
A presidential election was held in July but militant attacks have resumed in northern Mali where the extremist groups are based.
There was a suicide bomb attack in Timbuktu on 28 September and shells were fired into Gao on 7 October.
Tensions within the army also resurfaced when Mali government forces briefly abducted two officers near Bamako on October 1 over complaints about promotions, Koenders said.
France still has 3 200 troops in Mali but wants to reduce the figure to 1 000 by the end of the year.
In closed consultations on the new troubles, French diplomats backed the UN call for extra support and said there had to be increased security vigilance around legislative elections to be held in November, envoys at the meeting said.
"The fight against terrorism and crime is not yet over in Mali," the country's UN ambassador, Cheick Oumar Diarrah told the meeting.