News / Europe

France Launches Airstrikes in Mali to Support Government

Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore (Back center R), speaks with ministers during a cabinet meeting at which a national state of emergency was declared, in Bamako, January 11, 2013.
Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore (Back center R), speaks with ministers during a cabinet meeting at which a national state of emergency was declared, in Bamako, January 11, 2013.
VOA News
France has carried out airstrikes in Mali to support government forces trying to stem advances by Islamist militants.

France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, confirmed the air raids Friday, but declined to give more details about the military operation.

France announced earlier Friday that it had deployed troops to Mali at the request of the government. Troops from Nigeria and Senegal also are in Mali to help government forces.   

Malian military officials say the attack has stopped the offensive by Islamist rebels. The rebels, who control all of the north of the country, had pushed south this week, taking the town of Konna. Malian military officials say government troops have now taken back the town.

Map of MaliMap of Mali
Map of Mali
Map of Mali
Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, declared a national state of emergency Friday and called on every Malian to help in the war effort.

"Every Malian, man and woman, should from here on out consider oneself to be a soldier of the nation and behave as such. We call on all mining, telephone and other companies, as well as all people morally and physically able, to contribute to this fight against terrorism," said Traore. "All public services should put all vehicles that could be useful in the field at the service of the army without delay."

French President Francois Hollande said the French forces are helping to fight what he called "terrorist elements" in Mali.

"This operation will last as long as necessary. I will keep the French regularly informed about its proceedings," said Hollande. "The terrorists must know that France will always be here, when it comes to not only its fundamental interests, but also the rights of a population, that of Mali, which wants to live freely and in a democracy.''

Mali's president had asked France, the country's former colonial ruler, for immediate help in stopping the rebel advance. Diplomatic sources say Traore will meet with Hollande in Paris next Wednesday.

France's Foreign Ministry has advised French citizens in Mali to leave the country "temporarily," while the U.S. embassy in Bamako is urging Americans against all travel to the West African country.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States is consulting very closely with France's government.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday that Britain supports the French decision to intervene militarily.

Last month, the United Nations Security Council approved a plan for West African states to deploy at least 3,000 troops to Mali to help train the army and retake the north. But until this week, no troops had been expected in Mali until September.

The Islamists' takeover of Konna on Thursday placed the militant force within 25 kilometers from Mopti, the northernmost city under Malian government control. The militant groups are still several hundred kilometers from Bamako.

On Thursday, the government ordered all schools closed in the capital and in the nearby garrison town of Kati, citing the threat of civil unrest.  

The order, which covers kindergarten through university, came as state television broadcast a statement saying in part that the country faces "one of the direst periods in its history." It urged all citizens "to unite behind the army in the fight to take back the north."

Al-Qaida-linked groups took control of Mali's north soon after renegade soldiers overthrew the country's elected president last March. The groups have imposed a harsh form of Islamic law on the areas in their control, drawing condemnation from human rights groups.

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Comment Sorting
by: See 4 yourself
January 13, 2013 8:07 AM
JFK come and live in Africa and then you can really understand the situation on the ground. So easy to comment from the safety
of Canada, a remote location. France has done what France should do, just wish the UK had the same - another story another time

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
January 12, 2013 5:36 PM
France has agreements with most of its former colonies, to assist the gvmts as requested. Those agreements include military assistance as requested by the nation. France has sent its forces to ex-colonies, at the request of the national gvmt, especially the smaller nations, to help usually in natural disasters. The request by Algeria, during the recent civil war, I believe was the one time France did not help on the ground. So this is not that unusual situation for France. It is good for France to honor its agreements, and help its African allies, when they so request. I just hope it does not turn into a 10 yr+ committment.

by: See 4 Yourself
January 12, 2013 7:30 AM
Unfortunately no one helped in Zimbabwe, they were abandoned
The same is happening now, can you hear the "silence".?

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
January 12, 2013 3:22 AM
I think arms are not justified and never work well whatever as the means to resolve disputes among opponents. I have faith France should take pain to tell Islamists that the best way to control people is not to pursuade them to obey the one-way faith but to let them free to seek the faith they naturally could worship.

by: joekanuck from: Canada
January 12, 2013 12:31 AM
So let me get this straight; when islamist rebels, (aligned with Al Qaeda), try to overthrow the Syrian regime, they are freedom fighters, and when islamists, (aligned with Al Qaeda), rebel against the Mali regime, they are terrorists.

by: Jayson
January 11, 2013 10:13 AM
Just hope the UN can approve the offer of assistance.
Clear that there was a problem with Syria and it stalled.
Security Council decisions have failed many people sadly.
In Response

by: ORGirl from: Oregon
January 11, 2013 7:21 PM
I don't have too much faith in the U.N. to do anything but sit around and wring their hands wondering what to do next.
In Response

by: DRJJ from: USA
January 11, 2013 12:18 PM
Al-Qaida ruining another country! When will muslim leaders around the globe stand up and say enough?? Stop all tourism, aid and trade with any country embracing Al-Qaida and others like them-it's the only way they'll learn to live peacefully with others! Let's hear from muslim leaders loud and clear across the globe-if we all police these idiots they'll stop the hate/evil!

by: Gold Hoarder
January 11, 2013 8:17 AM
How noble of Mr Hollande to help the inferior races out. What selfless leaders the West has.
In Response

by: joekanuck from: Canada
January 12, 2013 12:34 AM
That sounds like the 21st century version of the 'domino theory', which created so much fun in Vietnam. The communist horde never took over the world...neither will the Muslims.
In Response

by: Carlos Weaver from: Virginia, US
January 11, 2013 7:29 PM
Gold Hoarder's comment above makes no sense whatever.

The French are helping an African nation to be overrun by the local version of the Taliban. This has nothing to do with race, but with extremists trying to force their, in this case absurd, beliefs and way of life on others.
In Response

by: ORGirl from: Oregon
January 11, 2013 7:16 PM
It's not about 'what selfless leaders the west has.' It's about stemming the tide of radical Islamists. If we don't do something about it now we'll all be praying to Allah.

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