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West Africa prepares for war

Military chiefs from around West Africa are planning the swift deployment of 3,300 troops.
Last modified: 16 Jan 2013 23:36
French troops have started ground combat against Mali rebels [Reuters]

West Africa is bracing itself for war.

Military chiefs of the West African ECOWAS bloc have concluded a plan for the swift deployment of 3,300 troops.

Those troops will come from Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Chad and Burkina Faso.

Nigeria will on Thursday send the first 190 of the 600 troops it has pledged.

More than 500 troops from Niger are also expected to cross the border into Mali after they receive the mandatory parliamentary approval required for foreign deployment for Niger's forces.

This comes as France gears up for what will probably be a long military campaign and launches a ground assault against rebels in the small garrison town of Diabaly, 400km from the capital Bamako.

Capture of town

Rebels from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad took control of Diabaly on Tuesday amid intensive aerial bombardment by the French forces.

Five days of aerial bombardment have done little to reverse the gains made by the rebels in the north.

Hence the ground assault ground against the rebels which reverses France's  earlier insistence that it will only provide air and logistical support to an African led intervention.

Mali's President Diancounda Traore has also visited the men and women fighting his country's battles.

At the airport in Bamako, Traore met some of the hundreds of soldiers that France has sent to Mali since Friday, to fight the rebels.

"This conflict is not only about Mali - this is an aggression against the entire humanity and an assault on liberty. We will forever be thankful to France for coming to our help," Traore said.

Eager for a fight

In Bamako I met a group of Malian youth who say they are willing to join the fight to remove the rebels from northern Mali.

They are members of the Malian Patriotic Youth League and are eager for a fight.
 
“We wrote to the ministry of defence asking for guns and to be taken to the front lines. We've been promised that but only after training We are ready to defend our people."

Their leader, Ibrahima Lansina, said.

But with the impending deployment of West African troops and international support pouring in for Mali, it is highly unlikely that the services of these men will be required.