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Netherlands to boost UN peacekeeping force in Mali

The Netherlands has announced that it will send 368 troops to Mali as part of a UN-led peacekeeping mission. The leader of Mali's 2012 coup has been summoned over human rights abuse allegations.

On Friday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that his government was sending the troops in an attempt to help restore stability to the North African country. The Dutch force will join an already existing UN mission in Mali.

The French military reduced its presence in Mali and handed control over to the UN this year following France's initial campaign to drive al Qaeda-linked militants out of Mali's restive northern region.

"We believe Dutch participation increases the chance of success of the UN mission," Rutte said.

In a letter to parliament, Foreign Minister Frans wrote that the Dutch force would include 220 troops for intelligence gathering, as well as four Apache combat helicopters.

In the Netherlands, deploying soldiers for UN peacekeeping missions is emotionally charged. In July 1995, Dutch soldiers were unable to prevent Bosnian Serb forces from killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in Bosnia.

On Friday, Rutte said that the decision to deploy Dutch troops to Mali was a tough one, but "all lessons from previous missions have been learned."

A March 2012 coup in Mali created a power vacuum that allowed Tuareg separatist rebels to seize control of the country's north.

Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants later took over half of Mali's north and started moving south. The French military intervened on January 11, but remnants of the militant groups continue to operate in the country.

Malian coup leader summoned

On Friday, a Malian Justice Ministry official confirmed to the Associated Press news agency that the man who led last year's coup, General Amadou Haya Sanogo, had been summoned by the judiciary to address allegations of torture and murder.

Sanogo led the mutiny that began on March 21, 2012, and later declared himself in "total control" of the country.

He is accused of rounding up, torturing and murdering soldiers who attempted a countercoup against him.

The summons is not a warrant for his arrest, and it was unclear whether Sanogo would later be taken into custody. Sixteen other soldiers linked to the alleged crimes were also summoned.

Sanogo, who denies the crimes, agreed to make way for a transitional government earlier this year, but officially remained in power until new elections were held in July.

dr/ipj (Reuters, AP, AFP)