France Continues Air Strikes In Mali, US Mulls Logistic Assistance

on January 15 2013 8:09 AM
Royal Air Force Regiment
A member of the Royal Air Force Regiment flight crew guides a French armoured personnel carriers as it is driven off a C17 aircraft in Bamako, Mali. Reuters

France continued with the air strikes against Islamic rebels in Mali throughout Monday night while the U.S. is considering sending drones and providing aid to the French troops. Efforts to deploy African troops gathered pace as well.

France has deployed hundreds of troops in Mali since Friday and launched airstrikes targeting the insurgents, who have captured a considerable land area of Northern Mali.  

Bombings rocked the besieged town of Diabaly, Monday night, as the local people told journalists they heard explosions coming from the direction of a military camp in the city, Reuters has reported.

"They bombed the town all night long. I am hiding inside a house. It only stopped at around 06:00," one visitor, Ibrahim Toure, told the Associated Press.

Speaking from a French military base in Abu Dhabi, France president François Hollande confirmed the overnight airstrikes, "which hit their targets." Hollande was in United Arab Emirates for a day long visit.

"We will continue the deployment of forces on the ground and in the air," Hollande said. "We have 750 troops deployed at the moment and that will keep increasing, so that as quickly as possible we can hand over to the Africans," he added, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, efforts to deploy African troops are on. West African defense chiefs are set to meet in Bamako Tuesday, to discuss a proposal to speed up the deployment of regional troops in Mali.

The West African troops are expected to be on the ground in a week to help stop the rebel advances, while a full intervention by the African forces aided by the U.N. and the U.S. would take another six months, due to logistical challenges, the Guardian has reported, quoting the ECOWAS mission head in Bamako, Aboudou Toure Cheaka.

The Islamic rebels of Mali, who have links to the al-Qaeda and other extremist militant groups, had captured a vast dessert area, during a coup in last March.

The coup, which ousted the then president Amadou Toumani Toure, proved disastrous for the African nation as it helped Islamic extremists and the secular Tuareg separatists to take control of half of the country.

Tuareg separatists, a rebel group of secular separatists fighting to establish a separate nation, which they call Azawad in Mali’s North, joined the hard line Islamists to take control of the North during the coup, but their coalition collapsed as the Islamists took control of the key operations and established a rule, based on the extremist Islamic principles.

The West, concerned about the region being used for abetting terrorist attacks by the militant groups had been supporting a military operation by the Mali and African troops backed by the U.N.

Several African nations including Senegal, Ghana, Togo Niger, Guinea, and Nigeria have offered to send troops to Mali.

The French plan to deploy additional forces taking the total to 2,500 soldiers in Mali, to help the native military fight the rebels. Reportedly, the insurgents had advanced to the towns of Mopti and Sevare, forcing the Mali government to seek the West’s help.

The United States is considering providing logistics, surveillance and airlift capability to the French troops. Currently, the U.S. military is providing the French with intelligence support.

Apparently, the U.S. military is considering providing surveillance drones, and also help French jets in refueling, the Los Angeles Times has reported.   

The US "has a responsibility to make sure that al-Qaeda does not establish a base for operations in North Africa and Mali," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters, Reuters has stated.

However, the rebels launched counter attacks dislodging the government forces from the town of Diabaly and warned France against the offensive.

 "I would advise France not to sing their victory song too quickly. They managed to leave Afghanistan. They will never leave Mali," an Associated Press report cited Oumar Ould Hamaha, a commander of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa as saying.  

"It's to our advantage that they send in French troops on foot. We are waiting for them. And what they should know is that every French soldier that comes into our territory should make sure to prepare his will beforehand, because he will not leave alive," Ould Hamaha said, according to the report.

According to an estimate, a total of 230,000 people have been displaced due to the insurgency fights in Mali. 

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