Mali military to be bigger


Mali will increase the size of its army by 50% in a recruitment drive aimed at uprooting jihadist groups, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.

The plan is to hire 10 000 new soldiers in the coming months to “allow our armed and security forces to be more present in quantity and I hope in quality in areas where they were not,” Cisse said.

He did not say how much the increase would cost or how the country would pay for it when military costs already take up a significant part of the budget.

It was also not clear how it would lure people into an army whose troops are often killed in attacks by Islamists.

The army declined to say how many troops it has now with the World Bank estimates there were 18 000 armed forces personnel in 2017.

Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized northern Mali in 2012, but groups allied with al Qaeda and Islamic State bounced back.

Much of central and northern Mali is largely lawless and groups use the area as a base to launch attacks across neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

France has 4 500 troops in Mali and the wider Sahel and local international forces also teamed up to contain the problem, but attacks continue.

About 20 soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn attack on an army camp in the centre of the country on Sunday and a further 24 died when militants attacked a patrol in the north in November.