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Campaigning wraps up in Mali's watershed elections

Campaigning in Mali's presidential election ended Friday, two days ahead of a vote seen as vital for a return to peace in a country traumatised by war and political chaos. Voters will have a choice of 27 candidates as they go to the polls on Sunday. It is the first vote since a separatist uprising led to a coup and then an Islamist offensive last year in what had been up until then, one of the region's most stable democracies.

Mali pushes ahead with 'imperfect' election

Seven million people are being urged to vote next week in elections to usher in a new dawn of democracy in deeply-divided Mali despite grave doubts over the possibility of a credible outcome. The July 28 poll is seen as crucial to reuniting a country riven by conflict during an 18-month political crisis that saw French forces intervene to push out Islamist rebels who had seized the north.

French general says EU Mali mission should be extended

By Adrian Croft BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The French commander of a European Union mission to train Mali's army, routed by rebels last year, said on Wednesday he believed the mission should be expanded and go on for at least a year longer than planned. The EU trainers, dispatched to Mali in the wake of a French-led military intervention in January that drove al Qaeda-allied Islamist insurgents out of the main northern towns, face a big challenge in turning Mali's rag-tag army into a capable force.

Malian army in better shape than 6 months ago

The Malian army is better placed to deal with its security challenges today than at the start of the year but an EU military training mission still needs to be extended, its French commander said Wednesday. The army's "condition is better than six months ago", when former colonial power France swept to its aid to help drive out Islamist fighters who had occupied the north of the country, General Francois Lecointre said in Brussels.

African troops passing baton to UN peacekeepers

The African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) -- the west-African and Chadian force being replaced by UN peacekeepers on Monday -- was set up by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It was established under a UN resolution to help the government regain control of northern Mali after the territory was occupied last year by armed Islamist groups who committed atrocities against the local population. AFISMA, led by Nigerian general Shehu Abdulkadir, is made up of more than 6,000 men.

Malian army "managing misery", not received funds-French colonel

PARIS (Reuters) - The Malian army remains poor, corrupt and barely functional months after the launch of a European training mission to rebuild its strength, a French colonel said on Monday, urging a rapid payout of pledged donor funds. The European Union approved in January a 15-month training mission to rebuild a badly paid and poorly equipped Malian army, with the aim of making it strong enough to fend off potential attacks by Islamist militants.

UN aims for Mali peacekeepers by July 1

An 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping force will take over military duties from France in Mali on July 1 if the UN Security Council rules the conflict has eased enough, according to a draft resolution obtained Monday. The 15-member Security Council could vote this month on the resolution that would allow French forces to intervene if UN peacekeepers are under "serious threat."

Three Chadian soldiers killed in Mali suicide bombing

By Cheick Diouara GAO, Mali (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed three Chadian soldiers at a market in the northern Malian town of Kidal on Friday, a Chadian military official and three witnesses said. Chadian and French soldiers have been stationed in the desert town since late January to fight Islamist rebels hiding in the region's mountainous borderlands.

Five Malian soldiers die in helicopter crash

Five Malian soldiers died Friday when their helicopter crashed in the centre of the war-torn west African nation, local government and army sources told AFP. "The crash of a Malian army helicopter killed all five passengers, Malian soldiers. This happened near Sevare. The Malian army is in mourning," a local official from the Mopti regional administration told AFP. A Malian military source confirmed the incident, saying a colonel was among the five dead and the cause was mechanical failure.

Five Malian soldiers die in helicopter crash

Five Malian soldiers died Friday when their helicopter crashed in the centre of the war-torn west African nation, local government and army sources told AFP. "The crash of a Malian army helicopter killed all five passengers, Malian soldiers. This happened near Sevare. The Malian army is in mourning," a local official from the Mopti regional administration told AFP. A Malian military source confirmed the incident, saying a colonel was among the five dead and the cause was mechanical failure. sd/mrb/ft/mfp
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