BAMAKO - Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Algeria will set up a joint force of up to 75,000 soldiers to secure their shared Sahara-Sahel desert zone, Mali's foreign minister said on Friday.
Speaking at a regional security meeting in Mali, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga said the force would be operational within 18 months and would be tasked with patrolling the zone and fighting against organized transnational crime.
The four nations are struggling to control the zone, where al Qaida's North African wing has stepped up attacks, operating alongside smugglers, rebels and local criminals.
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