Archive for January 14, 2013

AFRICA: More on Mali

France Steps in

French troops embark for Mali as part of Operation Serval, the counter insurgency operation. (Photo: French ministry of Defense

French troops embark for Mali’s capital, Bamako, as part of Operation Serval (Photo: French Ministry of Defense)

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.

Mali and its neighbors(CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

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

A French helicopter poilot was killed in fighting with Islamist rebels in Mali. (Photo: French defense ministry)

A French helicopter pilot was killed in fighting with Islamist rebels in Mali. (Photo: French Defense Ministry)

January 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm 1 comment


January 2013


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