West African nations have agreed to send a 3,300-strong invasion force to take back northern Mali from Islamists.
The agreement occurred at an emergency summit of ECOWAS, a bloc of West African nations that has been discussing military actions in Mali for the last several months.
“Authority reiterates that dialogue remains the preferred option,” read a statement by West African leaders after the summit, reported iOL News.
“However, recourse to force may be indispensable in order to dismantle terrorist and transnational criminal networks that pose a threat to international peace and security.”
The meeting was convened to create a blueprint for military action, reported Al Jazeera, that would be sent to the UN Security Council for approval.
It is expected to be approved at the UN and could mean military action by the end of the month.
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Soldiers would be primarily provided by Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso, said the BBC, but also include troops from Togo and Senegal.
It is still unclear whether Algeria, the region's most powerful military force, would get involved.
GlobalPost has already said that Algeria is key in stopping Mali's Islamists from escaping along its huge desert border.
Mali has been in turmoil since a March coup in Bamako whose chaos allowed Tuareg desert nomads to capture a large swath of the country's north.
The Tuareg rebellion quickly fell into the hands of Islamic militants who have controlled the region since late summer.
Islamic militants have imposed Sharia law and carry out brutal justice on the local population, including amputations for alleged crimes.