OTTAWA - A new poll suggests most Canadians would oppose the deployment of combat troops to Mali to fight Islamist rebels.
Fewer than one in five respondents to the Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey favour sending troops to the landlocked African country to fight a violent insurgency.
Just over one third of respondents said Canada should offer humanitarian aid without military involvement, while another 28 per cent supported sending Canadian non-combat trainers, equipment and support personnel.
Another 11 per cent of respondents said Canada should not get involved in Mali at all.
The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4 and is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The survey results come as French and African troops routed militants from major cities in Mali's north this week.
A military coup in March 2012 created a power vacuum that allowed al-Qaida affiliated groups to take over the country's north, an area of land the size of France.
Harris/Decima chairman Allan Gregg says the poll suggests many Canadians, weary after a decade of war in Afghanistan, aren't anxious to get involved in another conflict.
"While Canadians believe Canada has a role to play in the world — even in parts of the world where a direct, vested interest might not be readily apparent — few see that role as a military one," Gregg said in a release.
"The notion that Canadians are 'peacekeepers' and moral leaders — as opposed to a combat nation — seems to run very deep and clearly applies to the current conflict in Mali."
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Born out of the Algerian Salafist movement, GSPC, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) arrived on the public stage in January 2007. It rose to prominence partly by attacking Algerian government forces but mainly through its involvement in kidnapping Westerners across the Sahel zone including Mali, Niger and Mauritania. It has also links to trans-Sahara smuggling - a trade that includes drugs, guns and people - topping up the tens of millions of dollars raised from ransom-taking. In July 2012, the head of U.S. Africa Command described AQIM as al-Qaeda's "wealthiest affiliate". <em>Caption: In this May 17, 2010 file photo, a nomad from the Tuareg tribe of the Sahara Desert brings his herd for vaccination to a team of U.S. Special Forces in the Sahara Desert handing out aid near the town of Gao in northeastern Mali. (AP Photo/Alfred de Montesquiou, File)</em>
Its objectives include ridding North Africa of Western influence, overthrowing apostate "unbeliever" governments. Its leaders are Algerian militant Abdelmalek Droukdel and Salah Gasmi. Gasmi, the group's number two, was arrested in northern Algeria last month. It has traditionally operated in Mali through two wings, or katibas. France has advised its 6,000 citizens in Mali to leave as AQIM has in turn promised revenge for the French military intervention in Mali. <em>Caption: A still from a video shows Islamist fighters walking in the streets of Gao on June 27, 2012. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)</em>
Ansar Al Dine
Ansar Dine, which experts say has links to local al Qaeda factions, is a Tuareg-led Islamist group. Its name means "Defenders of the Faith" and it follows the puritanical form of Islam known as Salafism. Ansar Dine's leader, renegade Tuareg chieftain Iyad Ag Ghali, is linked to AQIM through a cousin who is a local commander and the group has received financing from AQIM, diplomats said. Ansar Dine and other Islamists gained the upper hand in Mali last year when they hijacked a rebellion launched by the secular MNLA Tuareg rebel group that fought for independence in 2012. <em>Caption: In this Aug. 31, 2012 file photo, fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard in Timbuktu, Mali, as they prepare to publicly lash a member of the Islamic Police found guilty of adultery. (AP Photo/File)</em>
Ansar Al Dine
Ansar Dine's turbaned fighters, who operate under the black Islamist flag, initially gained a reputation in the north for keeping order after outbreaks of looting. However they started enforcing sharia, earning hostility from locals who have a long history of practising a more liberal, tolerant style of Islam. The group has said that Timbuktu's famed shrines are un-Islamic and idolatrous. Much of the area's religious heritage has now been destroyed. <em>Caption: In this April 24, 2012 file photo, fighters from Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard during a hostage handover in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali. (AP Photo/File)</em>
The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) is seen an AQIM splinter group that formed in late 2011. The faction retains links to AQIM but has focussed on broadening its base from the domination of AQIM's Algerian-dominated leadership. Its stronghold has been in Gao, the biggest town in Mali's north, and it has drawn recruits from a range of ethnic groups in Mali and elsewhere in the region. Last month the United States designated the group and Hamad Al Khairy and Ahmad Al Tilemsi, two of the organisation's leaders, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. MUJWA has also been behind attacks and hostage taking in the region. <em>Caption: A Malian soldier partrols in the streets of Kidal 26 May 2006. (KAMBOU SIA/AFP/Getty Images)</em>