Nouakchott — African heads of state adopted a military intervention plan for Mali on Sunday (November 11th) during an emergency summit in Abuja, Nigeria.
The plan was ironed out two days earlier by defence and foreign ministers and calls for a force of 3,300 troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The summit was attended by officials from the fifteen member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other African countries, including Mauritania, Algeria and Libya.
According to ECOWAS Commission President Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo, "the urgent need to put a stop to the mafia-style and criminal practices of the terrorist groups and the atrocities committed with impunity by extremists justifies a high level of mobilisation to assist Mali".
"The force is quite ready. When UN gives the green light, the deployment will begin immediately," AFP quoted Ouedraogo as telling reporters on Tuesday (November 13th) at a separate Paris conference.
Said Djinnit, the UN Special Representative for West Africa, said that "maximum pressure must be maintained with a strengthened military intervention plan. Everybody wants intervention that targets only the terrorists."
"If the insecurity in the Sahel region were not contained, this would portend a great danger to the African continent and the world at large," according to Nigerian Deputy Foreign Minister Nurudeen Mohammed.
At the close of the summit, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara commented that progress towards a negotiated political solution would allow the intervention force "to better identify the targets and terrorists to be attacked".
As for the troops, Ouattara said that Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo have already offered to contribute.
"Chad may also be involved, and we have also been in contact with other countries: Mauritania and South Africa," he added.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told conference attendees that the military option against the armed Islamists was necessary to "avert harmful consequences for the whole of Africa".
"This intervention will be backed up by a UN resolution to drive out the rebels and anarchists who have turned the northern part of the country into a lawless zone," Jonathan said.
The intervention plan will now be submitted to the United Nations Security Council by the African Union.
European troops could also be part of the international mission to stabilise Mali. European states are set to discuss the deployment of several hundred trainers at a conference in Paris on November 15th, according to the French defence minister.
But news of the African-led intervention is already causing unrest among the ranks of terror groups occupying northern Mali.
Tandina, a Malian journalist based in Timbuktu, told Magharebia last Thursday that "the armed Islamic groups withdrew their military vehicles to an unknown destination outside town".
"This is seen as a military tactic in preparation for the military confrontation that may extend for a long period of time against the African forces that are due to be sent soon," Malian analyst Konaté Djibril told Magharebia.
"Through negotiations, ECOWAS now seeks to neutralise the role that Ansar al-Din can play for the interest of terrorist groups in case war breaks out," Djibril added. "If this happens, it will enable them to make significant field progress because al-Qaeda will lose its local supporters and the suitable places for positioning its forces within cities."
But Tandina was sceptical of any Ansar al-Din shift regarding al-Qaeda. He told Magharebia that he did not believe Ansar al-Din would abandon their terrorist allies "because al-Qaeda is the actual force in Timbuktu and it gives Ansar al-Din the local influence in areas under its control, and hadn't it been for al-Qaeda's intensive military presence, Ansar al-Din wouldn't have been able to do its work with populations".