Mali tribesmen join pro-Gaddafi forces

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 06, 2011 11:00 hrs

Tripoli, March 6 (IANS) Tribesmen from the Tuareg community of Africa's northwestern country of Mali have joined the forces supporting embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, a media report said.

A large number of men from the ethnic group left Mali last week to join pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya, an unnamed official told BBC in Mali.

'About 2-300 have left in the last seven days,' a senior elected official said on condition of anonymity.

Another Tuareg man said: 'It's true many young men are leaving. It all started about a week back.'

A convoy of 40 vehicles is waiting in southern Algeria to cross the border into Libya.

'They are being paid about $10,000 to join up and then I've heard they are being told that they will get $1,000 a day to fight,' the official said.

Witnesses said Africans of 'darker skin' fired on protesters, speculating that they might have come from countries like Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Mali and Sudan.

The Mali government is yet to make an official statement about the allegations.

But an official at Mali's foreign ministry said: 'The government of Mali is strongly opposed to the use of mercenaries in any armed conflict and is not in any way facilitating the movement of these people. We're thinking at the moment about how we can stop this.'