The UN Security Council has authorized the deployment of an international military contingent to liberate northern Mali from Islamist rebels and Tuareg separatists.
The 15-member council unanimously voted on Thursday to give the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) an initial one-year mandate, although military operations are unlikely to begin before September 2013.
According to the UN Security Council resolution, drafted by France, the 3,300-troop force should use “all necessary measures” to help recover the north of the country from “terrorist, extremist and armed groups”.
The EU countries and other UN member states have been tasked with rebuilding and training of Mali’s security forces and army for a joint military operation with AFISMA.
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.