France, the former colonial power, responded last week to a request from the Malian government to help fight an Islamic rebel advance on the south of the country. The central government in Bamako lost control of the north of the country early last year to rebel and al-Qaida forces.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights published Friday the findings from a November field mission that documented widespread abuses in the country.
The report found that rebel forces in the north had repeatedly used rape as a weapon of war, targeting women as well as girls. Malian soldiers, for their part, were accused of reprisal killings of tribal Tuareg fighters in the north.
Leaders from the Economic Community of West African States meet Saturday in Ivory Coast to discuss additional measures to ensure the stability of Mali. The U.N. Security Council had approved a resolution last year sanctioning an African intervention in the West African country.
Western powers, including the United States and Great Britain, are providing logistical support to military operations in Mali. The European Union, for its part, approved of a mission to help train Malian forces.
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