The United States is boosting military assistance to Mali, its ambassador said, to help the West African country fight armed militants including al Qaeda which are active in its northern desert.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), as the group’s North African wing is known, said it killed 28 soldiers there in July, a month after killing a British hostage.
The United States will donate vehicles and communications equipment worth $4.5 million, said Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic.
“The equipment will allow your soldiers to move around more easily, to coordinate their movements, and to bring supplies despite the long distances and difficult terrain which characterises the north of Mali,” she said at a ceremony in the capital Bamako.
The killing of the Briton, who had been kidnapped on the border between Mali and Niger in January, marked a violent change from the group’s previous tactic of taking hostages and demanding ransoms.
AQIM operates across a vast stretch of the Sahara, through Mauritania, Mali and Niger, where huge distances and hazardous terrain make policing the region extremely difficult.
As well as AQIM, the area is home to a simmering rebellion by Tuareg groups demanding greater autonomy. Mali and Niger agreed a peace accord with rebel groups earlier this month, though one of the main militant organisations rejected the deal.