Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 13:27 UK

Algeria and Mali target al-Qaeda

Malian soldiers patrol
Reports say the joint operation could last up to six months

Algeria has begun sending military equipment to Mali in preparation for a joint operation against Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda.

The aid includes fuel, weapons and sleeping bags, according to reports in the Algerian media.

The operation could involve neighbouring countries Niger and Mauritania, say the reports.

Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure has called for regional co-operation to deal with al-Qaeda linked groups.

The move follows a recent visit to Algeria by Mali's defence minister, during which he had talks with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Hostage deadline

Two independent newspapers have reported that the operation could start within the next month or two and last for six months.

Islamist groups have been using the Sahara in northern Mali as a base for attacks in Algeria and for keeping Western hostages.

A group called al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has threatened to kill a British hostage, believed to be held somewhere in the Sahara region, on 15 May unless the UK frees a detained Jordanian Islamist.

The group has been waging a campaign of bombings and shootings, primarily along Algeria's Mediterranean coast.

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