LAGOS (AFP) – An emergency summit of leaders from West African bloc ECOWAS has been set for Wednesday in Abidjan as countries in the region ready troops to assist Mali in its fight against Islamists, a spokesman said.
“It’s an extraordinary summit,” Sunny Ugoh, spokesman for the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States, said Sunday. “This one is just dedicated to Mali.”
Chiefs of defence staff from the region were also set to meet in the coming days, but Ugoh did not yet have precise details.
The first troops promised by African nations were expected in Mali on Sunday to join local forces who, backed by French air support, have driven back an advance by Islamist fighters.
The UN Security Council has approved an African force of 3,300 soldiers to help Mali take back its north.
Islamists seized northern Mali, a territory the size of France, in the wake of last year’s March 22 coup which ousted democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure.
The Islamists’ advance has intensified fears over whether the country could become a safe haven for Al-Qaeda linked extremists who could pose a threat to the region as well as Europe and beyond?
However a top official of the armed Islamist group Ansar Dine was killed in the battle for the central Malian town of Konna, a regional security source said Sunday.
“The Islamist fighters suffered a real setback with the death of Abdel ‘Kojak’ Krim,” the source said, adding that the slain man was a lieutenant of Ansar Dine chief Iyad Ag Ghaly.