Guinea to send up to 500 UN peacekeepers to Mali

Guinean President Alpha Conde in Paris, France, on January 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Miguel Medina) (AFP)

Paris (AFP) - Guinean President Alpha Conde said Monday his country would send some 500 troops to join a UN peacekeeping mission in strife-torn Mali.

In an interview with AFP in Paris, Conde said a "battalion of 450,500 men is ready to leave in February" to join the MINUSMA force.

"Guinea and Mali are two lungs from one body and anything that concerns Mali concerns Guinea," said Conde, adding that he was determined to do all he could to "help Mali recover the unity and integrity of its territory."

The UN peacekeeping force was set up in 2013 as a successor to a French-led force that intervened to drive out jihadists who had seized Mali's vast northern region.

However the jihadists have carried out regular attacks against soldiers and peacekeepers since they were ousted from their northern strongholds.

A UN peacekeeper was killed on Saturday in an attack on their camp -- just weeks after six others were injured on January 4 when their car drove over an explosive device.

The mission has lost 44 troops since it was launched in July 2013.

The UN Security Council in October called for an end to attacks on peacekeepers and said the UN MINUSMA force in the north should be beefed up to its full planned strength of 12,700 troops from the current level of 9,300.