BAMAKO, Mali, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The leader of a militia in Mali said his fighters were ready to defend the country with or without the national military as it copes with an al-Qaida threat.
A military coup toppled the democratically elected government in Mali early this year. Ansar Dine, a military group said to be aligned with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, has fought alongside Tuareg rebels in northern Mali. Northern militants were condemned by members of the international community for razing heritage sites in Timbuktu.
Interim President Dioncounda Traore, in a national address, said it was time for unified stance to address the crises in the country.
Mahamadou Dioura, leader of the Bouyan Ba Hawi militia, was quoted by London's newspaper The Independent as saying his forces were ready to defend the country.
"The dignity of Mali depends on our army," he said. "If the army reacts, we will fight alongside them. But if the army is slow to react, we will fight without them."
Supporters of the military coup had expressed frustration with the government's inability to take on northern militants, who've since declared autonomy for northern Mali.
The Economic Community of West African States last week expressed support for Traore but reiterated its readiness to deploy a standby force to Mali if a request was made.