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Royce: al-Qaida 'armed to the teeth'

Feb. 12, 2013 at 1:50 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Militants aligned with al-Qaida fighting in Mali and other parts of North Africa are "armed to the teeth," the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said.

The Malian government requested military support from France, the former colonial power, last month to help fight foreign and al-Qaida rebels.

Mali's government lost control over northern Mali in a coup in early last year.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it took multilateral action in Mali to address the threat.

"In Mali, you have battle-hardened, al-Qaida-affiliated militants, armed to the teeth with weapons from Gadhafi's stockpile, seeking safe haven," he said in a statement.

Some of the militants in Mali fought alongside forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during civil war in 2011.

With French and Malian forces pushing north, European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said Tuesday the European Union was resuming development aid in Mali.

"We will assist the country in restoring democracy and peace by focusing primarily on reconciliation, conflict prevention and supporting the electoral process," he said in a statement.

Royce scheduled a hearing for Thursday to discuss what he said was policy that would give the United States "the best chance to work with African forces to rid the region of militants."

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