PARIS, Apr 5 – The head of the military junta that sparked international outrage when it seized power in Mali two weeks ago begged Western powers Thursday to help it counter an Al-Qaeda-backed revolt.
Captain Amadou Sanogo told the French dailies Le Monde and Liberation his government would need international assistance to regain control of the north of the country, which has fallen to the Tuareg rebels.
“If the great powers are bale to cross oceans to battle fundamentalist structures in Afghanistan, what’s stopping them coming to us? Our committee wants the best for the country,” he said, in an interview.
“The enemy is known and it is not in Bamako. If a force was to intervene it would have to do so in the north,” he said, referring to the vast desert territory seized by rebels, which includes the towns of Gao and Timbuktu.
Foreign powers have expressed concern about the rapid advance of the Tuaregs, a mix of separatist forces and Islamists, including fighters loyal to Al-Qaeda’s North African wing, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
But the international community has also condemned the March 22 putsch which brought Sanogo to power, at least in the parts of the country still controlled by government forces in the south and west.
“In Bamako, life continues, the administration goes about its affairs, people look after their businesses, our committee is respected. So there’s no crisis in Bamako. What’s urgent is the North,” said Sanogo.
Sanogo, whose coup overthrew Mali’s elected leader President Amadou Toumani Toure, said he saw no difference between the rebels fighting for an independent Tuareg homeland and their Islamist allies.
“Why would I draw a distinction between armed groups?” he demanded.
“As long as they sow terror, I don’t differentiate between them. The doors to dialogue are open, we will talk, but we will not negotiate away Mali’s territorial integrity,” he insisted.
“The situation has been critical for a while. That’s the reason for which we overthrew the power in place. There was treason, the army was abandoned in the face of the Tuareg rebellion,” he argued.
“Today, it’s no longer a simple rebellion. It’s Islamist groups basing themselves in the north of the country. If Mali is left alone to face this problem, Africa and the world will face the consequences.”