Qatar has sent 24 Armored Personnel Vehicles (APC) to Mali, army officials from both countries said Friday, as Doha pledges closer ties with the West African Sahel country locked in a battle with jihadist insurgents.
Qatari General al-Ghaffari said the vehicles would be used by the Malian army operating in areas with mines and improvised explosives.
“There will now be permanent cooperation between our armies in the fields of training, unit equipment and military exchanges between our countries,” he told reporters in Mali’s capital Bamako Friday.
Malian General Moustapha Drabo said the vehicles would help “protect our forces against ambushes, which is the tactic used by the terrorists”.
Mali has been struggling to return to stability after Islamist extremists took control of the north in early 2012, prompting a military intervention by France.
The extremists were routed in the French operation in 2013 but large stretches of the landlocked African state remain out of government control.
“With this gesture, Qatar is clearly showing that Mali is among its allies in the Sahel, where Doha will be visibly more present,” Malian sociologist Mamadou Samake said.
The G5 of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania last year created a military taskforce to root out jihadist violence.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have agreed to provide about $150 million to the G5 Sahel force.