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African Union says it is sending troops to Mali to help protect civilians



UPDATED MARCH 23, 2020 07:42:22Mali’s president says he will send troops to help Mali’s government defend civilians amid escalating attacks on its military and civilian institutions.

Malian military spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohamed Bourak said Tuesday that “armed groups” have attacked the country’s government, government buildings and other civilian facilities in the last two days, and “there is no safe space in the country for civilians to live.”

He said troops would be sent to assist in protecting civilians.

He added that Malian authorities are “not looking for any clashes in the capital and the surrounding regions.”

The president, who spoke to reporters Tuesday, said he has ordered the deployment of more than 100 soldiers to assist with security measures, and he asked people to remain vigilant.

Bourak’s remarks came hours after the government of Mali’s leader, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, said it would deploy 100 troops to protect its people from possible attacks by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group blamed for several deadly attacks in the West African country.

“I want to assure the public and the people of Mali that our security forces are committed to protecting the security of the country and its people,” Boubaccar Keitasaid in a televised speech.

“We have made a decision to deploy the 100 soldiers in Mali and to protect our citizens,” he added.

“It is our duty to protect the security and safety of the citizens of Mali.”

The government also said that it will launch a nationwide operation to “prevent a repeat of the events of last week.”

The Malian army and the Malian Air Force were among several forces that were involved in the battle against al Qaeda last week, in which a group of men drove a truck into a crowd of people on a highway.

The attack killed at least 30 people and wounded more than 50.

At least one of the men, Abdul-Hakim Dabbagh, is in jail awaiting trial on charges of terrorism.

“The attack on the military and the military-led police and the armed forces of Mali will not be repeated,” Bounk said.

The U.N. said on Tuesday that at least 9 civilians have been killed in Mali in the past three weeks, including three women and two children.

The deaths came after at least 15 people were killed in the fighting last week that also left four soldiers dead.

The Malians have also reported at least four attacks on civilians.

A senior Malian official said Monday that at the height of the fighting, the country was “locked in a war with AQIM.”

The official, who asked not to be named, said the military was trying to keep the peace, but that AQIM has been using civilians to “cover its tracks.”

He also said the Malians were working to secure the northern town of Konna and its border with Niger.

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