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EU trainers bring ragtag Malian troops up to speed

At the foot of a hill by the banks of the Niger River a ragtag company of Malian soldiers crouch on the baked earth, Kalashnikov assault rifles poised. This is not real warfare but the beginnings of a near equally daunting exercise, the transformation of a poorly-organised, badly-equipped army into a modern fighting force, capable of taking on the Islamist insurgency raging in Mali's vast desert.

U.S. wants to support fight against al Qaeda in Mali - senator

By Tiemoko Diallo BAMAKO (Reuters) - The United States will seek ways it can help French and African forces in Mali combat al Qaeda-linked rebels, U.S. Senator John McCain said on Tuesday during a visit to the West African country. France launched a military offensive in Mali in January against Islamist militants threatening the capital. That drove the insurgents out of the towns they had seized, but they have since hit back with suicide attacks and guerrilla-style raids.

EU troops begin Mali training mission

The EU began a top-to-toe overhaul of Mali's ragtag army on Tuesday to help its soldiers take the place of foreign troops defending the west African nation against an Islamist insurgency. The first of four battalions arrived in Koulikoro, 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital Bamako, to train under battle-hardened European instructors as part of a wider effort to bring the army up to scratch as quickly as possible.

EU troops begin Mali training mission

The EU began a top-to-toe overhaul of Mali's ill-prepared, ragtag army on Tuesday to help the west African nation take the place of foreign troops defending it against an Islamist insurgency. The first of 570 Malian troops were due to arrive in Koulikoro, 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital Bamako, to train under European instructors as part of a wider effort to bring the army up to scratch as quickly as possible.

Tough EU mission to overhaul Mali army kicks off

The EU begins an ambitious top-to-toe overhaul Tuesday of Mali's ragtag army, far from ready to take the place of foreign troops to defend the West African nation against fresh attacks by Islamist insurgents. As France prepares to withdraw its 4,000 troops after routing Al Qaeda-linked forces from northern cities, the first of four Malian battalions begins training with battle-hardened European instructors on April 2 as part of a wider effort to bring the army up to scratch as quickly as possible.

French troops hand over weapons seized from Mali rebels

French forces in Mali on Saturday began handing over to government troops seven tonnes of weapons seized from former jihadist bases in the northeastern Ifoghas mountains. The Mali army took delivery of a first batch of around three tonnes in the main French military base in Gao, the largest city in the northern half of the country which Islamist groups occupied for nine months. "Only 15 to 20 percent of what has been found is being handed over and can be safely reused," a lieutenant-colonel from France's engineering corps told AFP in Gao.

Malian soldiers get human rights training

Hundreds of troops began human rights lessons Wednesday as part of their training for the Malian army, which is accused of abuses in its battle to flush Islamists out of its northern desert. A group of 300 soldiers were given a manual spelling out the obligation of the front-line trooper to "refrain from the use of his weapon against the civilian population" and "protect and save women and children from attacks".

Gunfire in Mali's Gao after Islamist 'attack'

Residents of northern Mali's largest city reported prolonged gunfire Sunday as the military carried out what it called a "clean-up" operation after Islamist militants claimed an attack on an army camp. "We're currently carrying out a clean-up to dislodge any Islamists that may have infiltrated" the city of Gao, said a Malian military source. "Some individuals fired three AK-47 shots at a Malian military camp in Gao overnight," the source added. "Our men responded forcefully. We see it as a very minimal incident. You can't even call it an attack."

German defence minister urges Mali troops to ensure security

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere on a visit to Mali Monday stressed that it was up to the Malian army to ensure security in the nation, after French and African troops have driven Islamist rebels out of their northern strongholds. "There will only be a good development of the situation, in a lasting way, if the Malian military forces themselves ensure security," he said after meeting with Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore. During his visit De Maiziere met with German soldiers deployed to support French and African troops fighting the Islamist extremists.

Burkinabe soldier killed by crash in Mali manoeuvres

DIABALY, Mali (Reuters) - A Burkinabe soldier was killed when a Malian army helicopter crashed into his vehicle during a military exercise, a spokesman said on Thursday, underscoring the challenge for African forces to take over from France in the fight against Islamist rebels. Malian army spokesman Modibo Nama Traore said the incident took place on Wednesday near the town of Diabaly in central Mali during a joint training exercise between France, Mali and the AFISMA force of African nations.
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