News / Africa

French Troops to Begin Withdrawal From Mali in April

France's President Francois Hollande (C) speaks to military officials as he attends a ceremony to the memory of Stephane Hessel, at the Invalides in Paris, March 7, 2013.France's President Francois Hollande (C) speaks to military officials as he attends a ceremony to the memory of Stephane Hessel, at the Invalides in Paris, March 7, 2013.
x
France's President Francois Hollande (C) speaks to military officials as he attends a ceremony to the memory of Stephane Hessel, at the Invalides in Paris, March 7, 2013.
France's President Francois Hollande (C) speaks to military officials as he attends a ceremony to the memory of Stephane Hessel, at the Invalides in Paris, March 7, 2013.
Anne Look
French President Francois Hollande said that French troops will begin pulling out of Mali in April. French, Malian and Chadian troops continue to face resistance from Islamist militants in the north, and analysts say the militant threat to both northern Mali and the greater Sahel region is far from neutralized.

Hollande said the French military campaign in Mali that began on January 11 is in its "ultimate phase."

He said this is the final stage because they have succeeded in all the other stages: the liberation of the major towns and the securing of Mali's national territory. He said this last stage will last for the whole month of March, and beginning in April there will be a decrease in the number of French soldiers in Mali - as soon as the African forces take over with support from the Europeans.

Hollande spoke Wednesday in Poland, as French and Chadian troops continue to face fierce resistance in the Ifoghas mountains of far northeastern Mali.

The area is the longtime hideout of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. It is where some of the fighters from the various al-Qaida-linked groups who controlled northern Mali for 10 months are believed to have fled.

The French say they have recovered impressive caches of weapons in the Ifoghas and are reporting dozens of Islamists captured or killed.

Chad says its troops in that zone killed two key AQIM field commanders - Abu Zeid and Mohktar Belmokhtar. Confirmation remains sketchy, however, and Paris has been circumspect.

On Wednesday, Hollande said the French would reveal more information in coming days on "successes" in the Ifoghas, including the killing of certain "terrorist leaders," though he didn't name anyone.

French and Malian forces also are trying to round up Islamist fighters holed up in villages around the northern town of Gao.

France lost its fourth soldier Wednesday since the start of the campaign in a rebel ambush 100 kilometers east of Gao. The French army said the Malian army, backed up by French airpower, killed 30 Islamists in that engagement.

The question of what will happen when the French withdraw has been persistent since the first French airstrike in January.

Sahel security experts, like J. Peter Pham of the Washington-based Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, say it is dangerous to underestimate the number of militants who are "biding their time," as well as the work still needed to properly train and equip the regional African force, which so far has been slow to deploy.

"If the French do withdraw most of their 4,000 troops, you're going to have a relatively weak African force, poorly trained, heading right into the rainy season without the strength of the French forces, facing militants who have gone to ground or gone to the mountains or wherever now, crawling back out and potentially launching asymmetric attacks all throughout the rainy season that could turn the African forces into little more than defending isolated garrisons," said Pham.

Jihadist groups in northern Mali repeatedly pledged revenge attacks against France and any African countries joining the regional force.

Militants so far have carried out three suicide bombings targeting the towns of Gao and Kidal in northern Mali.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Johan Bosman from: Flanders
March 13, 2013 6:47 AM
Once more by using the vague term "militants" there is no distinction made between the terrorist islamists and the Tuareg resistance fighters!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid