News / Africa

    France Continues Mali Air Strikes, Sends Tank Convoy North

    French soldiers refuel armored personnel carriers that were driven into the Malian capital from Ivory Coast, at a air base in Bamako, January 15, 2013.
    French soldiers refuel armored personnel carriers that were driven into the Malian capital from Ivory Coast, at a air base in Bamako, January 15, 2013.
    VOA News
    A convoy of French tanks rolled out of Mali's capital Tuesday, heading to northern regions controlled by Islamist militants.
     
    VOA correspondent Anne Look, who is on the ground in Bamako, says the tanks appear to be headed to join French military positions. France is building up its forces in Mali, sending in tanks and armored vehicles while carrying out new airstrikes against militants.
     
    Look reports that 100 French vehicles arrived from neighboring Ivory Coast Tuesday, and that more troops are coming from Chad and France.
     
    Meanwhile, witnesses say French warplanes attacked the town of Diabaly overnight, just hours after Islamist fighters took control of the area, 400 kilometers north of Bamako. Residents said Tuesday that the militants still hold the town.

    • A French soldier holds his weapon in the village of Sarakala, Mali, January 18, 2013.
    • Goats walk past a French military convoy refuelling in Markala, Mali, January 18, 2013.
    • People cross a strategic bridge over a dam on the Niger River secured by French forces in Markala, Mali, January 18, 2013.
    • A Malian soldier checks the identity of people crossing a strategic bridge over a dam on the Niger River secured by French forces in Markala, Mali, January 18, 2013.
    • French military vehicles drive to the north of Mali, at an undisclosed location, January 16, 2013. (French Army Communication Audiovisual Office)
    • French helicopters are towed to the military side of Bamako's airport, Mali, January 16, 2013.
    • A motorcyclist waves his support as French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti, January 15, 2013.
    • French soldiers walk past a hangar they are staying at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.
    • French soldiers test equipment at the Malian air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.
    • French air force technicians work on a Mirage F-1 fighter jet at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.
    • A French soldiers lies on his mattress in a hangar at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.

    French defense officials say their military contingent in Mali will gradually rise to 2,500. Nigeria says it will deploy its first troops to Mali by Wednesday, part of a planned West African coalition force to help Mali's army retake the north.
     
    French President Francois Hollande said in Dubai Tuesday that French forces will stay in Mali until the situation is stabilized.
     
    Al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists seized control of northern Mali after renegade soldiers toppled the government in March, leaving a temporary power vacuum. Militants have imposed harsh conservative Islamic law across the north.
     
    Western and United Nations officials are concerned the Islamists could turn Mali into a base for terrorists and criminals.

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    France deployed forces in Mali on Friday at the request from the country's interim government after Islamists began advancing southward. Mali is a former French colony and France still has a variety of economic and political interests there.
     
    Hollande said France's goals are stopping terrorist aggression, securing Bamako, and allowing Mali to recover its territorial integrity. He also said France will support the African force that will soon be in Mali.
     
    The West African bloc ECOWAS is speeding up its planned deployment to Mali for the same reason. ECOWAS communications director Sonny Ugoh said officials sense the need to act quickly.

    Foreign Troop Commitments to Mali

    • France 2,000 on the ground, 500 more committed
    • Chad to send 2,000
    • Nigeria to send 1,200
    • Benin to send 650
    • Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Togo have committed 500 each
    • Guinea and Ghana are also sending troops
    •  
    U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday the United States supports French efforts in Mali but is not sending troops.
     
    The United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday that the latest clashes have driven more than 1,000 Malians into neighboring countries. It says the total number of Malian refugees in the region now stands at 144,000, and that more than 200,000 Malians are displaced within the country.

    VOA's Anne Look contributed to this report.

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    Comments
         
    by: edmays from: brick nj
    January 16, 2013 12:39 AM
    All I can say is I`m glad no American politicians are pushing for us to have boots on the ground...that`s a breath of fresh air after all the wars we have been in lately. And a good show by the new French President who didn`t hesitate to take action...Viva La France.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    January 16, 2013 12:33 AM
    The French must not forget their defeat in Dien Bien Phu 59 years ago or they will be taught a new leason. This is the 21st century now.
    In Response

    by: Duncan McNeil from: USA
    January 16, 2013 6:52 PM
    Yes it is - and Chechyna is much more recent than DBP. France is trying to stem the tide and while I'm hardly a Francophile - I support them 100% in this task. Good on them!! I hope the US government and people help them in any way they need it and ask for it.

    by: musawi melake from: -
    January 15, 2013 8:31 PM
    All these acts in the name of helping the country is simply to establish a French foot hold that was absent since colonial times. Unless and until the Africans realize(there are many corrupt leaders who can be coerced and threatened to comply with the West) that they are being used against each other to exploit them, there'll be not end to this. While France fights for other countries's integrity, the Basque region that it occupies should be liberated so that the people of the region can enjoy freedom.

    by: Nik from: US
    January 15, 2013 10:40 AM
    The rebels did not attack any country. Basically the rebels are the majority of people of Mali who want an Islamic state in their own country. Through popular revolution they threw out the unwanted government to gain freedom. The West decides to brand them as terrorist and prop-up the unwanted government over the people of Mali and impose a dictatorship while unnecessarily making enemies of people of Mali. In the long run the campaign is bound to fail. The West will use its unmatched weaponry in Mali and will get its way now but the will of people cannot be suppressed forever. In a few decades the West would find itself on the wrong side of history. One thing the policy makers in the West have been lacking and still lack is wisdom. Most policies are short sighted.
    In Response

    by: Nyero from: Tanzania
    January 16, 2013 1:20 AM
    It is not true that the majority of the Islamic Extremists are Malians.Let us conduct research. The world should cooperate to hit hard as non sense in the name of religion. It is not written any where in religoius books. It is just lack of knowlegde. Sahel area could be used by the terrorists as their launching base. There is a shift from the Middleeast to the Horn of Africa, Maghreb and to the Sahel area. No space of non sense in this contemporary world.
    In Response

    by: Leke from: US
    January 15, 2013 4:21 PM
    An Islamic State to start amputating the citizens hands, deny women of education and their rights, deny children of good education that they can use in Mali and any other part of the World. You better go and live in Iran and its likes and get out of the society that gives you and any other right thinking human beings equal opportunity. Do you realize that the world is a global village that the kids of Mali can grow, be educated and relate in future with other growing kids in the rest of the rightful thinking world? Think as a right thinking human being with secularity in mind but not as a religious fanatic.
    In Response

    by: Jay from: China
    January 15, 2013 1:34 PM
    You're wrong!. All of these Radical Islamic States that are building up in the middle east and african nations are all connected to Iran's major plans to take control and influence the entire region.

    The only peacefull legitimate Islamic Country in the middle-east by now are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Lebanon and some others..

    Look at Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and even Pakistan are at chaos because of this radical islamic systems masterminded by IRAN.

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