- Title: MALI: U.S. army begins anti-terrorist training in nothern Mali
- Date: 7th September 2007
- Summary: VARIOUS OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS TAKING PHOTOS WITH TIMBUKTU LOCALS
- Embargoed: 22nd September 2007 13:00
- Location: Mali
- Country: Mali
- Topics: International Relations,Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA1IFSJGVFK7YR5XLCBYIPP2VVT
- Story Text: American army experts are in Mali for a series of military exercises dubbed 'Operation Flintlock'. The US has been training some north African armies for several years now in a bid to secure the Sahel region.
In the intense desert heat of North Africa mock battles rage against an enemy that is, at least for the moment, still imaginary.
But for the 512th battalion of Mali's infantry, that is no reason to take this exercise lightly.
They are being trained in counter-terrorism by the U.S. Army near the town of Timbuktu.
U.S. military experts come to Mali for several weeks every year, giving weapons training and teaching Malian troops how to move in platoons and ambush the enemy.
It is part of a much bigger military exercise, involving Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad. The Sahel region south of the Sahara desert is a vast area of inhospitable territory that is difficult to police and control.
Washington wants the four countries to work together in securing the area.
Observers say the US is worried that Al Qaeda cells driven out of the Middle East could be seeking refuge here. There is also the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat to worry about. The GSPC, as they are otherwise known, is a hard-line Islamic movement allied to Al Qaeda which fought to overthrow the Algerian government and has since been forced into exile.
"Our program of cooperation here is not specific to particular events in time or to particular threats; it has nothing to do with that. It's about a cooperative military exchange that is a friendship and a partnership that we want to maintain with our friends here in Mali regardless what happens day to day," said Colonel Rosengard, one of the American trainers.
The training excercise this year has been dubbed 'Operation Flintlock'.
"Flintlock is about building regional partnership so it involves the security organisations of nine countries in this region. Here specifically, we came to Timbuktu and to this unit at the Malian government's invitation," the Colonel continued.
The Netherlands, Britain, U.S., France, Canada, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Tunisia are also involved in the project.
"We are learning general combat techniques, topography, the use of weapons of all calibre, explosives, everything that a terrorist could use, we also need to be familiar with," said Malian commander, Captain Lassi Keite.
The U.S. has also brought in Special Forces trainers to work with their Malian counterparts.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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