BAMAKO/BRUSSELS - West African troops mobilised Thursday to join a French-led intervention force to stop the advance of rebels based in northern Mali.

The regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has pledged to send 3,000 soldiers for the MISMA (International Mission for Support to Mali) in line with a United Nations resolution. The force will be headed by Nigerian General Shehu Abdulkadir and some 2,000 soldiers are expected in Mali by January 26.

The first contingent of troops pledged by African nations, 40 Togolese soldiers, arrived in Mali on Thursday,

Mali’s former colonial ruler France has at this stage a total of 1,400 boots on the ground in Mali, according to the defence ministry in Paris. This will progressively be increased to 2,500 troops. European Union nations gave their support to France for its military campaign in Mali and offers of military aid, possibly including troops, at emergency talks on the crisis in Brussels on Thursday. “All the countries expressed their solidarity with Mali and support for France,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at the close of emergency European Union talks on the Mali crisis.

Fabius said many of France’s partners were ready to offer fresh logistical and material support, possibly including troops, to back efforts by French, Malian and African forces to rout Islamists occupying Mali’s vast northern reaches.

Some were mulling “an offer of troops,” although “we won’t force anyone,” he added.

“We were united in welcoming the quick response of France” last week in stopping the rebels’ threatened march on the Malian capital, Bamako, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

“Many countries said they were very willing to help and to support France in every way, and they did not rule in or rule out any aspect of that, including military support,” Ashton added.

“What is happening in Mali represents a global menace,” said Mali’s Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly, who joined the talks. The around 500-strong EU military training mission, which will have no combat role, will provide instruction to the Malian army on command and control, logistics, civilian protection and humanitarian law.

A small EU team led by the mission commander, French General Francois Lecointre, will head to Mali this weekend to prepare for the first of the trainers to arrive around mid-February.

Regional powerhouse Nigeria plans to send a total of 900 troops and a contingent of around 100 soldiers left the country Thursday. A Nigerian technical team, in addition to the Nigerian force commander, are already deployed on the ground.

Chad, which is not an ECOWAS member, has promised 2,000 soldiers and Togo a total of 540 men. The rest are due to come by the end of the week.

Niger, Senegal and Burkina Faso have promised 500 soldiers each, Benin has said it will deploy 300 men, Guinea will put 150 boots on the ground and Ghana 120.