BRUSSELS (AP) — EU foreign ministers on Thursday approved sending a military training mission to the troubled African country of Mali, to shore up the Malian army and enable the country's government to regain control of all its territory.
Militant Islamists have taken control of the vast northern part of Mali, leading EU officials to worry that radicals there could develop plans for terrorist attacks unimpeded by any government policing.
"The threat of jihadi terrorists is something that should be a matter of great concern to all of us," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said on his way into a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. "And there is not one European country that can hide if this threat would present itself to the European continent."
France, Mali's former colonial master, has recently launched a military operation to wrest control of northern Mali from the Islamists, who are said to have ties to the al-Qaida terrorist organization. But French officials acknowledge they have encountered fiercer resistance than they had expected.
No combat role is envisioned for the EU training mission. Instead, it will train soldiers, provide advice on command and control procedures, and offer instruction on human rights and the protection of civilians.
The foreign ministers appointed French Brig. Gen. François Lecointre as commander of the mission. They estimated the costs of the operation, which is to last for 15 months, at €12.3 million ($16.33 million). The headquarters will be in Bamako and training will take place northeast of Bamako.
The actual start of operations will require a separate decision.