French general to lead EU training force in Mali

A still from a video dated on July 1, 2012 shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu. Mali Islamists occupying the city of Timbuktu, north-west of Mali, are destroying more mausoleums announced an Islamist chief in the city on December 23, 2012. AFP PHOTO

PARIS: French general Francois Lecointre, a veteran of peacekeeping missions in Africa, will lead an EU mission to train soldiers in Mali, whose north is under the control of Islamists.

The 50-year-old, a graduate of France's elite Saint Cyr military academy, will be formally named by EU's top diplomat Catherine Ashton, French foreign ministry deputy spokesman Vincent Floreani said on Wednesday.

Under an European Union plan, some 250 officers would be sent to train Malian combat units and help restructure the west African country's weakened army.

It aims to train four battalions, or a total of 2,600 troops, near Segou, 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of the capital Bamako.

Lecointre has served in African flashpoints such as Rwanda and Ivory Coast as well as in Iraq and Sarajevo.

The UN Security Council has also unanimously backed West African plans for a 3,300-troop intervention in Mali, a country split in two since a March coup toppled president Amadou Toumani Toure.





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