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Mali Islamists a threat to Europe: French minister

Mali Islamists a threat to Europe: French minister

Paris: Islamist extremists occupying northern Mali pose a threat not just to the immediate region but to European security, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said.

For if nothing was done, they would make the territory a "terrorist sanctuary", he told French media today.

His comments came as West African leaders meeting in Nigeria agreed on a 3,300 strong force to wrest control of northern Mali from the Islamist groups who seized the territory in March.

The Islamist groups imposing an extreme version of Islamic law in northern Mali "are in the process of transforming this region into a terrorist sanctuary," Le Drian told RTL radio, LCI television and Le Figaro newspaper.

"In Mali, it is our own security that is at stake, the security of France, the security of Europe, because if we don't move a terrorist entity will take shape which could hit this or another country, including France, and including Europe," he added.

Asked about an African intervention force against the Islamist north of the country, he stressed that any such plan first had to be approved by the UN Security Council.

In the Nigerian capital Abuja yesterday, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, the current chairman of the regional bloc ECOWAS, said he hoped the Security Council would approve their plan by late November or early December.

In Paris, Le Drian repeated that France would offer support, but not troops on the ground for any intervention in its former colony.

He also expressed concern for French hostages held by Islamist groups in the region but argued that a military intervention might also be the best way to ensure kidnappings cease.


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