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Germany to send up to 650 soldiers to Mali

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has announced that the soldiers will support the French-led peacekeeping mission within Mali. Last week's hostage crisis has stoked fears of the African country's destabilization.

Germany currently has nine soldiers in Mali taking part in the UN-led Minusuma mission and 200 as part of the European Union Training Mission.

The German defense minister's announcement comes less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris killed 130 and less than one week after

gunmen stormed a hotel

in Mali's capital Bamako, killing at least 19.

The attacks in Paris have brought France to the forefront of the hunt to root out terrorist threats around the world. It already has thousands of troops in its former colony Mali, but the recent attack in Bamako has intensified fears that the African country is still unable to prevent terrorist groups from operating within its borders, particularly in its unstable north.

Von der Leyen said that the decision aimed to help

relieve military pressure on France,

as it is overstrained in its fight against the "Islamic State."

She added that Germany is planning to increase the number of soldiers training Kurdish peshmerga forces combating the Islamic State in Iraq to 150 from 100.

French forces intervened in northern Mali in 2013 to help overthrow Toureg and Islamist rebel groups who had established control over large swaths of territory there the year before.

International peacekeeping missions have since sought to maintain security in Mali.

The German parliament first decided to send soldiers to Mali as part of the

European Union Training Mission

in Februrary 2013, at the request of Mali's government under the authorization the United Nations Security Council. It extended its mandate earlier this year through May of 2016 and lifted its potential troop number to 350.

The decision to send the additional 650 soldiers must still be approved by the German parliament.

jtm/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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