KHARTOUM, January 28 (RIA Novosti) – The leaders of African Union (AU) member states have agreed to boost their military presence in the anti-Islamist operation in northern Mali, Russian presidential envoy to Africa Mikhail Margelov told RIA Novosti on Monday.
Speaking on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Margelov said it became clear the al-Qaeda-backed Islamic insurgents battling against French and African government troops in northern Mali were “larger and better trained and equipped than previously thought.” The AU thus decided to boost its military contingent in the region.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously last December to give the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) a one-year mandate. Deployed earlier this month, the contingent includes troops from Nigeria and Burkina Faso, among other countries.
Margelov also noted that Russia is actively cooperating with various AU structures. According to him, late last year Moscow sent around $2 million to the AU in support, about $700,000 of which was spent on supporting the negotiation process in Mali and another $1 million on policing in Somalia.
During the summit, Margelov met with Pan-African Parliament (PAP) chief Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi to hash out plans for cooperation between the PAP and Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.
He also met with the leaders of Uganda, Nigeria, South Sudan, Angola, and several other countries.
Mali was plunged into turmoil after a military coup last March, which triggered a Tuareg uprising and, later, attracted armed, al-Qaeda-backed Islamic militants.
France deployed a military contingent to the region earlier this month in an effort to help quell the conflict.