News / Africa

French Troops Enter Last Mali Rebel Stronghold

French special forces drive through the city of Gao, Northern Mali, Jan. 30, 2013.
French special forces drive through the city of Gao, Northern Mali, Jan. 30, 2013.
Anne Look
French forces have entered Kidal, the last major stronghold of Islamist militants who seized control of northern Mali last year.

French troops say they have taken control of the airport in the far northern town of Kidal --  the third, and last, major northern town to be retaken during this nearly three-week, French-backed intervention against al-Qaida linked Islamist rebels.
 
MAP: Click to expand.MAP: Click to expand.
x
MAP: Click to expand.
MAP: Click to expand.
The militants seized control of northern Mali in April on the heels of a military coup in the south that further weakened the Malian army.
 
France began aerial bombardments and then ground operations in Mali to help counter a surprise offensive southward by Islamist rebels on January 10.
 
Incommunicado

Cell phone communications are cut to Kidal. The president of Kidal's regional assembly, Haminy Belco Maiga, is in touch with the town via satellite phone.

He says the French arrived Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. aboard four planes and some helicopters.  He says vehicles on the ground used their headlights to indicate the runway.  He says there was no fighting and it appears everything was organized in advance which would indicate a prior agreement made with the MNLA.
 
The MNLA is the secular Tuareg separatist group that claimed Monday to have taken control of Kidal from the Malian-led Islamist group, Ansar Dine, which had previously held the town.
 
Maiga said the MNLA remains on the "periphery of the town" and Ansar Dine appears to have fled to surrounding villages and towns further north.
 
Solo entrance

French troops arrived in Kidal without their Malian counterparts.  That's a notable departure from how they have been liberating other key towns and a source of concern for northern leaders in Bamako, like Maiga.  
 
Maiga says he does not consider the town liberated until Malian soldiers enter Kidal.  He says there is concern that the French are negotiating with fighters, like the MNLA, something that should be reserved for Malian authorities.

Malian troops try to dissuade the crowd from looting shops in Timbuktu, Jan. 29, 2013. Hundreds of Malians looted Arab-owned shops Tuesday in Mali's fabled Timbuktu, newly freed from Islamists.Malian troops try to dissuade the crowd from looting shops in Timbuktu, Jan. 29, 2013. Hundreds of Malians looted Arab-owned shops Tuesday in Mali's fabled Timbuktu, newly freed from Islamists.
x
Malian troops try to dissuade the crowd from looting shops in Timbuktu, Jan. 29, 2013. Hundreds of Malians looted Arab-owned shops Tuesday in Mali's fabled Timbuktu, newly freed from Islamists.
Malian troops try to dissuade the crowd from looting shops in Timbuktu, Jan. 29, 2013. Hundreds of Malians looted Arab-owned shops Tuesday in Mali's fabled Timbuktu, newly freed from Islamists.
French and Malian troops continue to work to secure the other two other major rebel strongholds in the north, the cities of Gao and Timbuktu.  Road access to the north remains blocked.
 
Both towns were taken in the past week without much of a fight.  Residents say many Islamist fighters had already fled before troops arrived.  Malian military sources say the Islamists are believed to have dispersed -- abandoning their vehicles and moving in small groups in an effort to blend in with the population.
 
Militants

Analysts worry that those remaining Islamist fighters could take refuge in the remote, mountainous parts of the far north.  They could then mount guerilla-style attacks against targets in Mali and neighboring countries.
 
Military sources say the more than 6,000 troops expected to be deployed to Mali from Chad and from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS will be key to securing and holding the vast territory.
 
France has said throughout its military operations in Mali that it plans to pass the baton to those African troops.
 
The French defense ministry said Tuesday that 2,900 African forces are already on the ground in Mali.  France has approximately 2,000 soldiers there.

  • French soldiers patrol outside Djinguereber mosque after Friday prayers in the center of Timbuktu February 1, 2013.
  • People hold Malian and French flags during the reopening ceremony of Mahamane Fondogoumo elementary school in the town center of Timbuktu, February 1, 2013. 
  • Children celebrate holding a French flag during the reopening ceremony of Mahamane Fondogoumo elementary school in the town center of Timbuktu February 1, 2013.
  • Islamist rebel prisoners guarded by Malian gendarmes are seen at a military camp in the center of Timbuktu February 1, 2013.
  • Malian gendarmes show weapons used by Islamist rebels at a military camp in the center of Timbuktu February 1, 2013.
  • During an official visit organized by the French military, residents and journalists gather around a French Sagay tank positioned overlooking the bridge crossing the river Niger at the entrance of Gao, Mali, January 31, 2013.
  • During an official visit organized by the French military, French troops are positioned overlooking the bridge crossing the river Niger at the entrance of Gao, Mali, January 31, 2013.
  • Three Malian girls walk in the streets of Gao, Mali, January 31, 2013.
  • Chadian soldiers patrol the streets of Gao, Mali, January 29, 2013.
  • This photo released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office shows a crowd cheering the arrival of French soldiers in Timbuktu, Mali, January 28, 2013.

.

You May Like

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine Off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Davis Thanjan
January 30, 2013 12:14 PM
France has done a remarkable job of temporaily halting the advance of the Moslem fundamentalist terrorist groups from taking over Mali. The terrorists evaded the pursuit of the French military by safely evacuating the captured towns and villages.

The French or Mali forces cannot claim the death or capture of any of the terrorists. The ECOWAS forces are too slow to engage in Mali. Under these circumstances the terrorists who crossed the border to other neighboring counries are just waiting for appropriate time, after the withdrawal of French forces, for a come back.

The only way the peace can be established in Mali is by (1) retaining a small contingent of rapid strike force of France in Mali, (2) ECOWAS forces keep the security of Mali till the Malian forces are trained and equiped for internal security, (3) the countries who assisted the France continue to provide similar assistanc to ECOWAS and Mali forces, and (4) the neigboring countries conduct combing military operation against the Moslem fundamentalist terror groups in areas close to Malian border. Otherwise the diaspora of Moslem fundamentalist terrorists will create more security problems in the neighboring countries.

In Response

by: Jacob from: United States
January 30, 2013 5:23 PM
Yeah, but when we intervene in Mali we leave out all of the others. The "democracy" callers in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya all have the same goal. Funny how the West chooses one of those countries to "intervene" in and leave the others alone even though there is no visible difference between them.

In Response

by: Sensi
January 30, 2013 5:03 PM
"The French or Mali forces cannot claim the death or capture of any of the terrorists."
Hmm, they killed dozens of them before, the remaining is just melting away.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid