West African leaders call for more global involvement to ward off Islamic rebels in Mali
“We must speed up the re-establishment of Mali’s territorial integrity with the logistical support of our partners … [and] go beyond our current deployment numbers,” Ouattara said, calling for international financial support for African nations involved in the Mali effort.
African leaders were also urged to fast-track the deployment of African troops to boost a French-backed offensive in Mali against fighters led by the al-Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Dine.
As ground fighting continued on the ground, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it had received credible reports of serious abuses, including killings, being committed by Malian security forces against civilians around the central town of Niono.
“We urge the Malian authorities, as well as the French and [West African] soldiers/authorities to do their utmost to ensure the protection of all civilians,” the New York-based group said in a statement.
HRW said that Tuaregs and Arabs, ethnic groups most associated with rebels who have controlled Mali’s north, were being especially targeted.
Mali’s army was not immediately available for comment.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Bamako, quoted the Ansar al-Dine as saying that a French air raid hit one of their vehicles killing two of their fighters as they were attempting to leave the town of Diabaly.
“There are reports the rebels are leaving their pickups and other vehicles and moving on foot with the civilians in an attempt to avoid French air strikes,” she said.
Against this backdrop of conflict, concerns about the humanitarian situation in Mali have mounted, with a UN agency voicing fear that fighting could displace 700.000 more people in the coming months.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also said it had received reports of horrific abuses being committed in Mali.
UNHCR staff members are relaying stories of “witnessed executions and amputations”, and tales of large offers of money to civilians who will fight against the French-backed Malian army and its supporters, Melissa Fleming, agency spokeswoman, said on Friday.
The accounts were recounted by some of the 265 Malian refugees who crossed into Burkina Faso in the past several days from Intahaka, N’Tillit and Dorage towns, and surrounding areas in the Gao region of northern Mali.
Courtesy : Al-Jazeera