U.N. peacekeeping troops take over security of northern Mali

TIMBUKTU, Mali, July 1 (UPI) -- A U.N. peacekeeping force took over security duties from French troops in Mali Monday to help secure the country ahead of elections, officials said.

Six thousand West African troops were brought under U.N. command in a ceremony Monday, becoming the third-largest U.N. mission of its kind, the BBC reported.


The United Nations approved the mission, known by its French acronym of MINUSMA, to be installed for one year, Voice of America reported. By December, it should reach its full strength with 12,640 uniformed personnel.

"This is not an anti-terrorist operation but of course the mandate has an element of real robustness in it and of course we are in a position to use all necessary means to defend ourselves and of course to defend the mandate," Herve Ladsous, the United Nations' head of peacekeeping.

The troops are initially charged with securing the north of Mali so the country can hold a presidential election July 28, the BBC said.

Al-Qaida took control of the north in March 2012 and imposed strict Sharia law. France sent 4,000 troops to the region in January, which, with the help of Malian and West African soldiers, retook control of the north.


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