West African bloc authorizes troops for Mali

Associated Press
In this Nov. 24, 2012 photo, soldiers from a Malian army special unit stand atop pick-ups mounted with machine guns, following a training exercise in the Barbe military zone, in Mopti, Mali.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday, Jan. 11, 2013,  that France, Senegal and Nigeria have responded to an appeal from Mali's President Dioncounda Traore for help to counter an offensive by al-Qaida-linked militants who control the northern half of the country and are heading south. The U.N. chief said that assisting the Malian defense forces push back against the Islamist armed groups is "very important."(AP Photo/Francois Rihouay)
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BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has authorized the immediate deployment of troops to Mali a day after French forces began a military operation there.

In a statement released Saturday, ECOWAS commission president Kadre Desire Ouedraogo says it made the decision "in light of the urgency of the situation."

ECOWAS did not say how many troops would be sent to Mali or when they would arrive. It also did not specify which countries from the 15-nation bloc would be providing the forces.

ECOWAS has been talking for months about a military operation to oust the Islamists from northern Mali. While the U.N. approved a plan it had not been expected until September.

The French operation, which started Friday, came after an appeal for help from Mali's president.

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