UN, January 11 (RIA Novosti) - The UN Security Council called to speed up the deployment of an international military contingent to liberate northern Mali from Islamist rebels and Tuareg separatists.
The call comes after the Islamists, who control the northern Mali, clashed on Thursday for the first time in almost a year with government troops and captured the strategic city of Konna, located hundreds of miles to the north of the Malian capital, Bamako.
The UN Security Council, which gathered for an emergency session in regard to the escalation of tensions in Mali, said in a statement that the development of events in this country pose a direct threat to the international stability and security.
Last month the 15-member council unanimously voted to give the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) an initial one-year mandate tasking the 3,300-troop force to help recover the north of the country from "terrorist, extremist and armed groups.”
Mali’s north became controlled by Islamist militants, who have imposed strict Sharia law, following a military coup d’etat in March. A total of 500,000 Malians have been driven from their homes, 270,000 of them to neighboring countries.
The situation in the country was further complicated by events in neighboring Libya, where the ruling Gaddafi regime fell in 2011. The return to Mali of the Tuareg armed fighters, the MNLA, which had been used as protection by the late Libyan leader, led to a separatist war and formation in April of the unrecognized separatist state of Azawad, occupying a third of Mali's territory.