BAMAKO, Mali — The first troops from Mali's neighbors were expected Thursday, nearly a week after French forces launched their military operation to dislodge al-Qaida-linked militants from a harsh desert region the same size as France.
Aboudou Toure Cheaka, special representative for the president of the ECOWAS commission, said that the troops from Nigeria would be arriving sometime Thursday. Forces from Niger also are to be deployed soon along the border between Mali and Niger, he said.
The arrival of the West Africans comes after France began ground operations and pressed north into territory occupied by the radical Islamists.
France already has upwards of 800 troops in Mali, and expects to ramp up to a total of 2,500 that will include French Foreign Legionnaires. It has committed helicopter gunships, fighter jets, surveillance planes and refueling tankers in the fight against the Islamists who seized control of northern Mali last year.