Thursday, October 25, 2012
France gives Burkina Faso planes to tackle Mali Islamist threat
OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - France has provided Burkina Faso with three light aircraft to help it monitor its northern border with Islamist-occupied northern Mali, the head of the West African nation's army said on Wednesday.
Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, seized the northern two-thirds of Mali earlier this year, raising fears that militant groups could spread their influence beyond the country's porous desert borders.
"These three planes will allow us to carry out aerial reconnaissance in the north," Brigadier General Nabere Honore Traore, the head of the army, told the state-owned Sidwaya newspaper.
"The security of the sub-region requires exactly these kinds of missions," he said.
France also provided Burkina Faso's military with a number of ground vehicles, he said.
Some regional and Western powers are considering retaking northern Mali via armed intervention, with former colonial ruler France among the chief proponents of swift military action.
Islamist groups have singled out France for its aggressive stance on Mali.
Al Qaeda's north African wing has repeatedly threatened to kill French hostages if Paris tries to mount a military operation in Mali.
Seven workers for French firm Areva were seized in northern Niger in 2010, and all but four have since been released. Two other French citizens were taken hostage in Mali in November.
(Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Osborn)