Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly at a news conference after an… (Virginia Mayo / Associated…)
LONDON — The European Union on Thursday authorized sending a military training mission to Mali to help the African nation fend off the Islamist rebels that have taken over a broad swath of territory.
The EU said the mission would provide instruction to the Malian army on matters of command and control, logistics, civilian protection and humanitarian law. It would not involve combat.
[Updated 8:05 a.m. Jan. 17: EU foreign ministers said they hoped to launch the training mission to Mali by mid-February at the latest.
They condemned the "acts being carried out by terrorist groups against the Malian armed forces," but also warned both sides of the conflict to respect civilian safety and human rights. "All the parties and individuals involved in Mali will be held responsible for their actions," the ministers said.]
Although dispatching the training team will require another decision by European leaders, the move Thursday was aimed at bolstering support for the Malian government and came days after major EU power France launched its own military operation to help its onetime colony.
“The threat of jihadi terrorists is something that should be a matter of great concern to all of us,” Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said outside a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels. "And there is not one European country that can hide if this threat would present itself to the European continent.”
Malian forces are trying to turn back the Islamic militants who have established control over much of northern Mali and who have tried pushing south toward the capital, Bamako. French airstrikes and troops have backed up the Malian military, which has appealed for outside help.
The EU training mission would last for 15 months, cost about $16 million and be based in Bamako. Officials named a French general to head the team, which would comprise about 450 people.
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