BAMAKO - Al-Qaida-linked Islamists in Mali threatened on Saturday to "open the doors of hell" for French citizens if France kept pushing for armed intervention to retake the rebel-held north.

The renewed threats came as French-speaking nations met in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where French President Francois Hollande was expected to urge the rapid deployment of an African-led force to rout the Islamists.

"If he [Hollande] continues to throw oil on the fire...he will not be able to count the bodies of French expatriates across West Africa and elsewhere," said Oumar Ould Hamaha, a spokesman for Islamist group MUJWA. MUJWA is among the Islamist groups which seized control of the northern two-thirds of Mali when fighters swept into the territory in April following a coup in the capital Bamako.

Regional and Western powers are now considering armed intervention to retake the area, with France seeking swift military action by regional bloc ECOWAS.

The UN Security Council called on Friday for an intervention plan to be drawn up within 45 days after passing a French-drafted resolution to revive attempts to end the crisis.

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