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Mali Conflict Threatens Security in Maghreb Region

France becomes involved militarily in Mali as Islamist militants spread their influence, shedding a brighter light on potential regional implications of escalating conflict in the country, writes Ambassador Nassif Hitti.
A French soldiers lies on his mattress in a hangar at the Malian army air base in Bamako January 14, 2013. France, which has poured hundreds of troops into the capital Bamako in recent days, carried out more air raids on Monday in the vast desert area seized last year by an Islamist alliance grouping al Qaeda's north African wing AQIM alongside Mali's home-grown MUJWA and Ansar Dine militant groups. REUTERS/Joe Penney (MALI - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT)

The French attack on Mali came as a surprise for many, at least in terms of its timing. According to UN Security Council resolution 2085 of December 2012, it was expected to come as part of a process of backing up African forces deployed by the Economic Community of Western African Countries (ECOWAS) to assist the Malian forces.

The radical Islamists' successful offensive into the south of the country and the danger that these elements will gain control of most of Mali — since they face a demoralized and ill-equipped army — has led to an immediate French reaction to the preemptive attack.

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