African Union says progressing to military force by end-2015

* Delays have forced African states to request French help

* Official says four of five brigades near readiness

* Rise of Islamists present new challenge to AU

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, June 25 (Reuters) – Africa is making progress towards a regional military force by the end of next year, a senior African Union official said on Wednesday, as local leaders urged less reliance on foreign intervention.

Delays in implementing the African Standby Force (ASF) forced African states to request French intervention to tackle crises last year in Mali and Central African Republic. Continue reading