Posts tagged ‘Africa’
In the days since the March 5 death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, security analysts have speculated on whether regime change in Caracas will have any effect on transnational narcotics cartels operating in Latin America.
Since 1999, when Chavez began his 14-year rule, Venezuela has been considered a major hub for the shipment of illegal narcotics from neighboring Colombia to the United States and Europe. The U.S. Treasury Department has added several high-level Venezuelan military and intelligence officials to its Foreign Narcotics Kingpin list, for alleged “material assistance” to the Colombian rebel group known as FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) which Washington has labeled a “narco-terrorist organization.”
In the last decade, the battle against transnational criminal organizations has stretched from Central and South America across the Atlantic to West Africa and beyond. Officials say drug trafficking is destablizing, promotes corruption and other illegal activity including human trafficking and piracy. Increasingly, U.S. and other militaries are helping local and national law enforcement agencies with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to battle criminal cartels.
By law, the U.S. Defense Department is the lead agency for the detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs, although federal law also limits the military’s assistance in U.S. territory to civil support. However, the Coast Guard, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, has dual military and law enforcement authority.
But as authorities increase pressure on them in the Western Hemisphere, narco-cartels have been turning to Africa, especially the politically unstable countries of West Africa, to use as transit points for Europe-bound illicit drug shipments.
A United Nations report released Feb. 25 listed the growing influence of narco-cartels both foreign and home-grown in West Africa. Cocaine trafficking remains the most lucrative criminal activity of international groups operating in the region, but one “worrying development” is the emergence of methamphetamine production and related trafficking, according to the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The report also discussed human trafficking between West Africa and Europe and arms trafficking across Africa.
Top government officials from the United States and other countries are slated to discuss the toll of trafficking in drugs, guns and humans at the Countering Transnational Organized Crime conference in Alexandria, Va. next month. To read the whole story, visit the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement site (http://www.idga.org) or click here.
Boko Haram Attack
Nigerian security forces say they repelled an attack on a military base by the radical Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, killing 20 militants. An Army spokesman told the Voice of America that the attack occurred today (March 3) in the village of Monguno (also spelled Munguno) about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Maiduguri (see map) on the country’s northeast.
Nigeria’s Joint Task Force on Operation Restore Order said three four-wheeled drive vehicles and eight motorcycles were used in the attack, according to the Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper group (via the All Africa website). Army spokesman Lt. Col. Sagir Musa was quoted as saying AK-47 assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades and a large quantity of ammunition were recovered from the attackers by government troops.
There was no mention of civilian or military casualties. The Associated Press reported that witnesses said the attack also killed a village leader. It came just two days after the release of a video purportedly made by Boko Haram’s leader, saying the anti-Western group – which wants to impose Islamic law in Nigeria – will not call off its attacks until sharia becomes the law of Nigeria.
Did Chadians Score Again?Did soldiers from Chad — who are assisting French troops battling radical Islamist insurgents in the mountains of Mali — kill the mastermind of last month’s hostage-taking attack at an Algerian gas plant?
On Saturday, the president of Chad, Idriss Deby, said his troops killed about 40 militants in a stronghold near the Algerian border, Reuters reported. Among the dead, it was claimed, was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed commander of an al Qaeda affiliate who claimed responsibility for the attack on the In Amenas natural gas plant in Algeria. More than 60 people were killed during the hostage siege and final rescue/assault by Algerian troops in January. That al Qaeda attack came just days after the French launched a military intervention in Mali at the government’s request.
If true, the news of Belmokhtar’s it would be “a major blow to al Qaeda in the region and to Islamist rebels forced to flee towns they had seized in northern Mali by an offense by French and African troops,” Reuters said March 2.
But now ther commander of Chad’s troops in Mali says he can’t confirm the terror leader’s death in the assault on the stronghold. “It is certain that some leaders were killed. But I can’t confirm that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was killed, Gen. Oumar Bikomo told the New York Times.
But the general was more certain about the death of another al Qaeda-linked commander, Adelhamid Abou Zeid, which Chad officials reported Friday.
Meanwhile, a third French soldier has been killed in the military intervention in Mali called Operation Serval.
Imaginative Rhino Protection
Illegal poaching of the wild African rhinoceros for its incredibly valuable horn is pushing the beast toward extinction and that’s pushing environmentalists to come up with some unusual solutions to the problem.
Writing in the journal Science, four leading environmental scientists are suggesting legalizing the rhino horn trade as a way to regulate and control it, Reuters reports. There is an incredible black market for rhino horn, an ingredient in traditional Chinese folk medicine. Prices have climbed from about $4,700 per kilogram ($2,132 per pound) in 1993 to around $65,000 per kilo ($29,485 per pound) today, the scientists said.
There are only 5,00 Black Rhinos and 20,000 White Rhinos left — mostly in South Africa and Namibia — even though a 1977 treaty banned the international trade in rhino horns.
Instead, the scientists say, “the time has come for a highly regulated legal trade in horn.”
Meanwhile, Google and the World Wildlife Fund are teaming up to fly unmanned surveillance aircraft over parts of Africa and Asia to monitor and catch poachers who kill endangered tigers, elephants and yes, rhinos, according to news reports.
The WWF is already flying small hand-launched drones over national parks in Nepal. Now Google is giving the environmental protection group a $5 million grant to expand their use of drones and other high tech devices like wildlife tagging and analytical software.
The 15-member West African trading bloc, known as ECOWAS, is giving the interim government in coup-stricken Guinea-Bissau seven more months to prepare for national elections.
The tiny West African nation was wracked by a military coup days before a presidential election last April, prompting international partners like the European Union to freeze aid for the former Portuguese colony. The military gave power back to an ingterim civilian government headed by President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo last May in a deal brokered by ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).
Elections were supposed to be held in May 2013 but the heads of state of ECOWAS nations, meeting in Ivory Coast, extended the transitional period in Guinea-Bissau until Dec. 31, Reuters reported, to give Nhamadjo more time to set up the election machinery before the end of the year.
Guinea-Bissau is said to be a major transit hub for South American dug cartels moving narcotics to Europe, Bloomberg reports.
Meanwhile, officials in another small est African nation say they have foiled an attempted coup.
Authorities in Benin said Sunday (March 3) that a plot to oust President Thomas Boni Yayi and install a military regime has been thwarted, according to Nigeria’s The Guardian newspaper.
In a statement read to journalists Sunday, State Prosecutor, Justin Gbenameto, said a Colonel and a businessman were arrested for plotting “to block the Head of State from returning to Cotonou”[Benin's capital] after his trip [to meet with South American leaders in Equitorial Guinea] “and to institute a military regime,” The Guardian website said.
A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle passes a tribal ally — possibly a Tuareg — near Gao on the Niger River in mid-February during the French campaign to assist Mali’s beleaguered army retake the northern half of the country. Unfortunately, the article on the French Ministry of Defense website doesn’t give further details about this scene.
The French launched a military intervention Jan. 11 with attack helicopters, fighter jets and some 4,000 troops to halt a militant Islamic insurgency sweeping across the largely desert country that threatened Bamako, the capital. France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, maintained the rebellion could cause Mali to become a safe haven for terrorist groups and launching platform for attacks on Europe. The radical Islamists, with ties to al Qaeda affiliates in Africa, hijacked a rebellion by autonomy-seeking Tuareg tribesman last year. While the Islamist fighters have been driven from most towns and villages, they continue a stubborn resistance in the mountains of Mali’s north.
France in Mali
Fighting against Islamist extremists in the mountains of northern Mali is turning out to be taking longer than first projected, says French officials who acknowledged today (Feb. 28) that their troops will likely remain in the North West African nation until July, the Associated Press reports.
The French military intervention, which began with helicopter and fighter jet airstrikes Jan. 11, was expected to be a quick in and out operation — officials had been talking about a March pullout. But now several French officials tell the AP that the 4,000 French troops in Mali will have to stay longer.
German Mali Mission Approved
German lawmakers have given their permission for German military advisers to begin training Mali’s battered army. The mission was approved by lawmakers Feb. 27. As many as 350 German troops could be sent to Mali. About 180 troops will provide training, while another 150 German troops will provide logistical support including air transport and aerial refueling. But German troops will not be deployed in combat operations, according to German broadcaster Deutsche Weller (DW).
German troops have had some experience in Mali. Between 2005 and the military coup last year that spiraled into unrest and chaos, Bundesweher (German Federal Defence force) advisers have been permanently stationed in Mali, the German defense ministry told DW. Those advisers help Mali’s army set up an engineers unit.
Top Insurgent Commander Killed?
French forces fighting in Mali are believed to have killed a top commander of al Qaeda’s North Africa wing according to an Algerian TV channel, Reuters reports. The TV channel said Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, was killed in operations against Islamist fighters in northern Mali. The television channel Ennahar of Algeria said Abou Zeid was among 40 militants killed three days ago near the border with Algeria. Reuters said Ennahar is well connected with Algeria’s security services. French and Chadian troops have been trying to dislodge fighters from northern Mali since mid-January.
Fierce fighting continues in northern Mali as French troops and their allies from Mali and Chad battle to clear violent Islamist extremists from mountain strongholds.French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today (Feb. 26) that the fighting in the Ifoghas region – near the Algerian border – is targeting an area where the “most radical terrorist groups” have gone, according to the Voice of America.
Because of that, Le Drian says says it’s too soon to talk about withdrawing troops from the former French colony in West Africa, although costs of the nearly two-month intervention are growing.
The defense minister told France’s RTL radio that the French intervention in Mali has cost more than €100 million ($133 million), the Associated Press reported.France began airstrikes Jan. 11 against insurgents that have seized control of almost half of Mali and were threatening Bamako, Mali’s capital. There are now about 4,000 French troops in Mali and Paris has said it wanted to pull them out as soon as the threat diminished — perhaps as soon as March.
Late last week, officials in Chad announced 13 of their soldiers had been killed and five wounded in fighting with the militants in northern Mali. Officials said 65 insurgents were also killed.
To see some striking Aljazeera photos of the fighting and its aftermath in the northern Mali town of Gao, click here.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast Foreign Minister Charles Koffy Diby says it will cost more than 700 million euros to pay for a multi-national West African military force to replace the French in Mali. The military option was approved in December by the United Nations Security Council and organized by the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which includes Mali and Ivory Coast.
The peacekeeping force is supposed to consist of 6,000 troops from ECOWAS countries and another 2,000 from Chad, which is not an ECOWAS member but borders Mali. More than 1,000 Chadian troops are already on the ground in Mali, as are contingents from Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal.
According to the South African Press Association, Diby, whose country holds the ECOWAS chairmanship this year, estimated it would cost 715 million euros – more than twice the amount pledged by donor nations in January. Diby said the sum he had in mind took into account “the demands of an asymetrical war or a drawn-out conflict that the narco-terrorists … could bring about.”
Transnational Crime Threat
A United Nations report released today (Feb. 25) warns that the production of methamphetamine is on the rise in West Africa.
While cocaine trafficking is the most lucrative criminal activity of transnational crime groups operating in the region, one “worrying development” is the emergence of meth production and related trafficking, according to the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The main market for West African-produced meth is East Asia, although it is also going to South Africa. Income from West African-made meth “is remarkably high” for a product that’s new to the market, the report said, adding that competition from drug rings in East Asia is likely to cut into those profits in coming years.
Pierre Lapaque, the West and Central Africa representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says meth is an attractive product for West African criminals because it is easy to make, the Voice of America reported. “You can do that in your kitchen, if you wish,” he said, adding: “You go on the internet, you get the recipe and you cook.”
Although the flow of cocaine out of West Africa peaked at 47 tons in 2007, officials believe cocaine trafficking is back up to 30 to 35 tons a year.
Much of that cocaine comes from Brazil where Nigerian crime groups are exporting the drug. the report said, adding that those crime groups have been using containerized consignments and maritime shipping to smuggle the drugs. The small country of Benin on the West Coast of Africa is seeing more use as a departure point for air couriers headed for Europe, the report said.
The report also noted that while human trafficking between West Africa and Europe had declined in recent years, there are still problems with pirates off the coasts of Nigeria and Benin as well as trafficking in firearms and fraudulent medicines.
“The recent flood of 10,000 to 20,000 firearms from Libya does represent a serious threat to stability in the region, a threat that appears to have been realized in northern Mali,” the report said.
White House Informs Congress
U.S. troops have been deployed to the North African nation of Niger to aid French military operations against Islamist militants in neighboring Mali.
In a letter to congressional leaders today (Feb. 22) President Barack Obama said approximately 40 military personnel entered Niger two days earlier — with Niger government approval — bringing the U.S. contingent in the desert nation to 100.
Obama said the U.S. troops were in Niger to “provide support for intelligence collection” and “facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali.
The announcement confirms previous news reports that the U.S. was setting up an airfield in Niger to accommodate unarmed surveillance drones to monitor the situation in Mali and elsewhere in the region.
The Pentagon’s news service reported that most of the U.S. contingent were Air Force specialists. U.S. Africa Command recommended placing unarmed drones in Niger “to support a range of regional security missions and engagements with partner nations,” the American Forces Press Service reported.
Last month, the United States and Niger signed an agreement on the status of American forces in Niger.
French forces began an airstrike campaign last month — at the request of Mali’s president — against insurgents who were threatening the West African nation’s capital, Bamako. The U.S. Air Force began airlifting French troops into Mali shortly after the French began their counter insurgency campaign.
Mali has been in turmoil since a March 22 military coup emboldened Tuareg separatists to sweep down from the north and take control of more than half of Mali. The largely secular Tuaregs nationalists were shouldered aside by hardcore Islamist militants shortly after their battlefield successes against Mali’s army. The extreme Islamists, like Ansar Dine which has linked to al Qaeda and other terror groups, introduced strict Muslim religious law in the captured territory, and meted out harsh punishments like limb amputations and floggings.
Obama notified House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate, that he was sending in the troops “in furtherance of U.S. national security interests.”
Kidnappings on Rise
Westerners, particularly French nationals, are being targeted for abduction by Islamist militants, angered over France’s campaign against anti-government Islamist insurgents in Mali, according to The Africa Report website.
Analysts suspect that terrorist groups in Nigeria, Mali, Chad and Niger are working together to avenge what they see as a war on radical Islam, the website said.
The latest attack came Tuesday (Feb. 20) when a family of French tourists – including four children – were kidnapped in Cameroon by armed men on motorbikes. The seven French nationals were seized near a wildlife sanctuary in northern Cameroon and were taken across the border into Nigeria. No group has taken credit for the attack although authorities suspect Ansarum, an offshoot of the violent Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram.
The incident brings to 15 the number of French nationals being held by kidnappers in Northwest Africa. Seven French nationals are being held by an al Qaeda affiliate – al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Another Frenchman was taken by Ansarum last June, according to the BBC.
On Saturday, seven foreigners were kidnapped during an attack on a Lebanese construction site in northern Nigeria. Ansarum has taken responsibility for that attack, saying it was in retaliation for France’s attack on militants in Mali. Islamist extremists have been responsible for the deaths of numerous foreigners in Nigeria including North Korean doctors and Chinese construction workers, according to The Guardian.
Brazil, Angola Seek Closer Ties
The governments of Brazil and Angola have agreed to form a joint defense committee to supervise cooperation and annual meetings to be held in both countries, the Angola Press Agency (ANGOP) reports.
The agreement was announced in a communique issued at the end of a two-day visit to Angola’s capital, Luanda, by a Brazilian delegation headed by Defense Minister Celso Nunes Morim.
Morim, who was accompanied by several business people on the trip, told a press briefing at the Angolan Foreign Ministry that Brazil is looking to cooperate with Angola on defense issues like training and joint exercises, according to ANGOP. “The simple fact that these business people have come to Angola shows that the interest is not restricted to selling alone, but also to seek partnerships and joint investment possibilities as this is important for the country’s development,” Nunes Morin stated.
Angola is looking to Brazil for support to strengthen its own defence industry, to reduce the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA)’s dependence on foreign military equipment sales, according to Angola’s defense minister, Cândido Pereira dos Santos Van-Dunem.
Brazil has the strongest economy in South America and has been looking for foreign partners to supply equipment and manufacturing technology to strengthen its defense forces and defense industry.
Both countries are former Portuguese colonies.
Tunisia, the North African country — where the Arab Spring began more than two years ago — has been lurching through a political crisis since Feb. 6 when leftist politician and opposition leader Chokri Belaid was assassinated.
No one took responsibility for the fatal shooting but Belaid’s supporters blamed the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party — which vehemently denied any hand in the murder — according to AFP via channelnewsasia.com
The politician’s murder sparked violent street protests and strikes. Then-Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali tried to defuse the situation by announcing plans to create a non-Islamist cabinet of technocrats. The proposal failed and Jebali, resigned.
Now Presidentr Moncef Marzouki has been holding meetings with top politicians to pull the country out of the crisis.
Meanwhile, according to ForeignPolicy.com‘s Middle East Channel, the political instability is hurting Tunisia’s fragile economy. Remember: It was protests about high unemployment and food prices as well as government corruption that precipitated regime change in January 2011. Now Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Tunisia’s credit rating because of the “risk that the political situation could deteriorate further…”
Algerian Hostage Siege
We’ve held off posting on the seizure of hostages at a natural gas plant in eastern Algeria until the situation became a little less confused. But as far as 4GWAR is concerned, the situation is still quite confusing. The Algerian prime minister said today (Jan. 21) that 37 foreign hostages were killed in the four-day terrorist incident.
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal also said a “Canadian” citizen coordinated the siege`and that seven of the foreigners killed — during the initial seizure of the desert plant on Jan. 16 or in the attack by Algerian security forces that retook the plant on Jan. 19 — have yet to be identified. Five other foreigners are still missing. Seven Japanese, six Filipinos, three Americans and three Britains have been identified by their respective governments as among the confirmed dead. Others, from Britain, Norway and elsewhere are listed as unaccounted for, according to Reuters.
The Algerians say about 700 Algerian workers and 100 other foreigners survived the ordeal at the In Amenas plant near the border with Libya.
Reuters also reported that an Algerian security source told the news agency that documents found on the bodies of two militants had identified them as Canadians. At a news conference in Algiers the Algerian prime minister said a Canadian was among the militants, adding that: “He was coordinating the attack.”
A leader of the terrorist group, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for the attack on the gas plant in retaliation for French military intervention in Mali which Islamist militants are threatening to overrun. The AQIM says it was also punishing Alegerian officials for granting French military aircraft flyover permission on their way to Mali (See story below and note the border Mali shares with Algeria in the map above).
In a separate story from London, Reuters reported that Britain said it would increase counter-terrorism and intelligence aid to Algeria and consider giving more help to France in the fight against Islamists in Mali. But Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out any chance of direct British military intervention in Africa.
More on Mali
French and Malian troops have retaken two towns from Islamic militants several news organizations are reporting. The joint force took control of Diabaly and Douentza today (Jan. 21), although BBC reports the towns had been abandoned by militant Islamist fighters fled both towns last week after a French bombing campaign. Diabaly is about 250 miles northeast of Mali’s capital of Bamako. Douentza is about another 250 miles northeast of the capital. Diabaly was the southern-most point held by the militants, Bloomberg reported. Mali is one of Africa’s leading gold-producing countries — even though its people are desperately poor, according to Bloomberg.
The French began airstrikes using helicopters and fighter jets on Jan. 11 to halt the militants’ advance on the capital. They were concerned about Mali becoming a launching pad for terror attacks against Europe. About 2,000 French troops are in Mali already with another 500 expected, although the France, the former colonial ruler of Mali, insists it don’t plan to stay for a long time in an Afghanistan-like mission in Mali.
Meanwhile, an international force from several West African nations is beginning to form. Already about 250 soldiers from Nigeria, Togo and Senegal are in Mali. Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Ghana and Guinea have all pledged to send troops. Chad has pledged to send 2,000 troops and Nigeria will send 1,200 according to the BBC. Funding the coalition force as well as coordinating action among troops from many lands speaking many languages is still a concern.
“The crisis in Mali, if not brought under control, may spill over into Nigeria and other West African countries with negative consequences on our collective security, political stability and development efforts,” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan wrote earlier this month in a letter to the country’s Senate requesting approval of the troop deployment in Mali, according to Bloomberg. Nigeria is dealing with terror attacks by its own Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian said the objective in Mali was to “totally reconquer” the area seized by nomadic Tuareg nationalists and militant Islamist fundamentalist groups like Ansar Dine, The Guardian newspaper reported.
The African Threat
Do the Algerian hostage raid and French intervention in Mali — coming on the heels of Islamist militant attacks in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia signal a widening of the so-called War on Terror or an expansion of jihad from Southwest Asia and the Middle East to Africa?
A number of analysts have weighed in on that question. Here is a sampling:
An attempted military coup in Eritrea, a country sometimes called the North Korea of Africa, has apparently failed.
Eritrea, which sits just above the Horn of Africa on the Red Sea, has one of the most secretive and repressive regimes in Africa, according to the New York Times. The country won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991after a 30-year war of rebellion.
Eritrea has waged war at one time or another with nearly all of its neighbors. The United Nations has imposed sanctions on the country because of suspected support for Somali militants.
On Monday (Jan. 21) mutinous troops stormed the Ministry of Information and siezed the state-run television service (often a first step in seizing power in coups and revolutions). But apparently nobody took to the streets and soldiers loyal to the government of President Isaias Afwerki put down the would-be revolution. For details, click here and here.
Why Mali Matters
For more than a decade we’ve been told how important it is for the U.S. and its allies in the war on terrorism to stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan. If nothing else, one argument went, U.S. presence in those countries keeps them stable and keeps them from being turned into terrorist bases.
Since then the argument has been made for U.S. intervention in Yemen, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya. The key is keeping offshoots and allies of the terrorist group, al Qaeda, from gaining in a foothold around the Horn of Africa or the Muslim dominated countries of North Africa.
An op-ed piece in the New York Times today (Jan. 15) argues that now the U.S. must help the French military in its battle against terrorists, insurgents and Islamic extremists in the North African state of Mali. Written by Vicki Huddleston, who was U.S. ambassador to Mali from 2002 to 2005.
She maintains that its important that the U.S. do what it can — without committing combat troops — to prevent Mali from becoming “a launchpad for terrorism.” The rebels in northern Mali have made common cause with Nigeria’s Boko Haram, which wants to create an Islamist state as well as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has kidnapped several westerners in the desert ares of North Africa.
The Voice of America has a piece that identifies some of the major players among the Islamic coalition fighting the French. It also gives a brief summary of how Mali got in such a mess – starting with a military coup last March. Reuters also has a simple, easy to follow timeline of the Malian conflict going back to last March’s military coup.
France Steps in
Events are moving fast in the West African nation of Mali since Islamist militants seized a key government outpost late last week on the border of the desert region where Tuareg separatists and violent Islamic fundamentalists have seized an area the size of France.
Last Friday (Jan. 11), a day after Mali’s president wrote French President Francois Hollande seeking military assistance to stop the rebel forces’ advance, France launched air strikes against the al Qaeda-linked rebels.
Since then, the airstrikes by Mirage and Rafale fighter/bombers and Gazelle attack helicopters have driven the Tuareg-Islamist rebels from the town of Konna where they threatened to advance on the larger city of Mopti and its airfield. (See map). One helicopter pilot was fatally wounded during an early airstrike but the helicopter was able to return to base. There are reports of hundreds of dead rebels and Malian soldiers. The French also bombed rebel strongholds in Gao and elsewhere in the north.
While the French are the only troops engaged in air combat missions, logistics and air transportation of armored vehicles and other equipment have been supplied by British C-15 Globemaster heavy lift aircraft. The United States will supply manned and unmanned aircraft for reconnaissance and intelligence missions as well cargo planes for transportation, while the Canadians are sending a single C-17 cargo plane to fly non-combat logistical missions. All three allies have said they would not send ground troops to aid the French. And the French do not plan to deploy combat infantry to attack the rebels. Germany said it will support French troops but ruled out sending German combat forces to West Africa.
Today (Jan. 14) the Islamist rebels fought back, seizing the town of Diabaly, less than 250 miles from Mali’s capital, Bamako. The rebels pledged to make the French pay a heavy price for their intervention. “France has opened the gates of hell for all the French,” a spokesman for one of the rebel factions. Meanwhile, France is evacuating its citizens from the area. An estimated 50,000 French citizens and foreign nationals live in Mali, a former French colony. The French government is also taking extra security precautions in Paris, Nice and other parts of France.
The French defense ministry says it plans to deploy as many as 2,500 troops in Mali from France and French outposts in other former colonies like Chad and Burkina Faso. The French president, Hollande, says France’s Operation Serval only seeks to keep things stable until an estimated force of 3,000 African troops from various nations in the region can be organized and transported to Mali.
Reports from Reuters, the Guardian, NPR, the New York Times, Toronto Globe and Mail, French Defense Ministry