(The African Report)
Morocco and France have called on the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to consider taking action against Malian Islamists should diplomacy fail.

The strong views from Paris and Rabat follow reports on the deteriorating state of affairs in Mali.

Northen Mali is currently under the leadership of the Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), two groups whose socio-political ideologies threaten the Maghreb, West Africa and Europe.

Moroccan Foreign minister Youssef El Amrani told reporters that the kingdom is encouraging its allies in the UN Security Council to find a political solution to the crisis, but the regional community will have to consider “other options” if diplomacy failed.

El Amrani minister said there was “an urgent need to act, to prevent the Sahel-Saharan region from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and a refuge for criminal networks.”

French Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday said his government would back an African military intervention, a strategy he described as “desirable and inevitable.”

The jihadists have imposed a repressive regime of public beatings, whippings and even stonings on the local people sparking outrage from governments across the world.

Mali has been unable to address the Islamist uprising because its army has been rocked by ill discipline.

With inaction by the Malian army, a group of civilian fighters have begun training in open camps to challenge the Jihadists who now lay claim to the once tourist-friendly town of Timbuktu as well as other strategic sites.

They have also been on a campaign to destroy historic and World Heritage shrines.

The civilian militia leaders say they are tired of waiting for an army that shows no signs of action.

“Our goal is to liberate the north, whatever the price; we can’t abandon our relatives. I’m going to use my very few means, to get out in front of the army,” Ibrahim Issa Diallo, a former soldier told reporters.

ECOWAS is ready to send in a 3,000-strong military force to Mali, but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from the Malian government in Bamako.