West Africa bloc to send 3,000 troops to Mali

West Africa's regional bloc will be sending at least 3,000 troops to Mali to retrain and re-equip the country's military following last month's coup, officials said late Thursday.

Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the president of the commission of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, said the group had authorized the immediate deployment of a standby force to Mali.

Mutinous soldiers overthrew the country's democratically elected president last month. The junta has since handed over power to an interim civilian government as part of a deal brokered by ECOWAS.

There are lingering questions, though, about what role the military will play in the country's future.

Mali is now battling political upheaval in the country's vast north where separatist rebels have declared their independence, and militants are trying to impose strict Islamic law.

Ivory Coast's deputy defense minister Paul Koffi Koffi said that the West African regional bloc would be sending "at least 3,000 troops to Mali."

A military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said the troops will aid Mali's armed forces.

In televised comments earlier this month, coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo said he was asking Mali's partners for equipment and logistical help, but did not want foreign forces helping reclaim the country's north from rebels who declared independence.

On Thursday, ECOWAS also said it plans to deploy more than 600 troops to Guinea-Bissau, where the military seized power just weeks after Mali's coup.

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