News / Africa

Burkina Faso Soldiers Join French Troops in Mali

A French armored vehicle drives on a road next to the central market in Diabaly, Mali, January 23, 2013.
A French armored vehicle drives on a road next to the central market in Diabaly, Mali, January 23, 2013.
VOA News
A contingent of soldiers from Burkina Faso has deployed to central Mali, becoming the first African troops to link up with French and Malian forces fighting al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants.

Malian officials said Thursday about 150 soldiers from Burkina Faso had arrived in Markala, a town about 250 kilometers from the capital, Bamako.

VOA correspondent Idrissa Fall, who is in Bamako, says the soldiers are gathering near the base that French forces used to help re-take the town of Diabaly.

Fall also says French forces conducted airstrikes late Wednesday against Islamist militants in Ansongo, in east-central Mali.

"The French planes began bombing Ansongo, targeting the office of customs and another office which is called public work(s), where the Islamists used to hide their materials.  After the bombing, I think all the Islamists went hiding in the market, in the trees.  There is panic inside the population but the city is calm today."

Fall reports soldiers from Niger are in camps near Mali's eastern border and a growing number of West African soldiers are arriving in Bamako.

Rebel split

In another development, a faction of one of the armed Islamist groups occupying northern Mali has announced it has broken away to form its own movement.

In a Thursday statement, a portion of the Ansar Dine rebel group said it had formed the Islamic Movement for Azawad.  Fall says the newly formed group has expressed a willingness to seek a negotiated solution to the country's crisis.

"They condemned terrorism and say they are ready to fight against the terrorists.  And, what is interesting is the guy who is leading the Islamic Movement for Azawad, Mr. Alghabass Ag Intallah, he is the son of the spiritual leader of the Tuareg and he was the closest aide of Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of Ansar Dine," Fall reported.

Members of Ansar Dine and Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad during a meeting in Algiers, Algeria, December 21, 2012.Members of Ansar Dine and Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad during a meeting in Algiers, Algeria, December 21, 2012.
x
Members of Ansar Dine and Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad during a meeting in Algiers, Algeria, December 21, 2012.
Members of Ansar Dine and Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad during a meeting in Algiers, Algeria, December 21, 2012.
In an interview Thursday with VOA's French to Africa service, Islamic Movement for Azawad spokesman Mohamed Ag Aharib explained why the group was created.  He said there have always been "moderates" in Ansar Dine who condemned radicalism.  Aharib said after Islamist militants launched attacks in southern Mali, the moderates decided they could not go further.

He also said the new movement is seeking autonomy for northern Mali, not independence.

Ansar Dine rebels joined with ethnic Tuaregs to seize control of northern Mali following a March coup.  Ansar Dine and other Islamist groups then took full control of the region, where they have moved to impose strict Islamic law.

In late December, Ansar Dine agreed to a cease-fire with the government, but suspended it earlier this month, saying the government was not sincere about peace negotiations.

Rebel push

Islamist fighters began pushing south into government-controlled areas shortly after the new year, prompting airstrikes from French forces acting at the request of Mali's government to halt the advance.  French and Malian troops have retaken some rebel-held areas.

Fall says there are significant changes in the northern city of Gao, which had been under the control of Islamist militants.

"Sharia is no longer in application in Gao because the Islamists, most of them, they’ve left the city. Now, women are going out with no veil and the younger people in Gao have begun smoking -- smoking cigarettes openly in the city of Gao," he explained.  "When the Islamists were there it was forbidden to smoke.  It was forbidden to listen to music. It was forbidden for women to go out without a veil.  So, that is no longer in application because a big piece of the Islamists have disappeared from Gao."

In a related development, France has ordered special forces to protect a uranium site in neighboring Niger.  Material from the Areva uranium mining site is used to help power France's nuclear power facilities.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs