French President Hallande’s decisive military action against al Qaeda aligned Islamists in Mali is an example of what many Americans have expected from allies for a long time. Since France has influential roots in Mali and a population of 6,000 French citizens, it makes sense. More, Hallande has it correct in assessing that terrorist extremists seizing control there would eventually pose a threat to European security. His leadership is to be commended.
From this BBC report, we learn that the Islamist terrorists were armed with weapons they likely obtained in Libya. We also learn that the logistics supply chain has been identified by French aviators and is under siege.
This action should become a template for the response to al Qaeda inspired or other Taliban-like organizations and terrorists.
America has a big fish to fry with Pakistan.
“France Rafale jets target Gao in eastern Mali
French warplanes have bombed the town of Gao in eastern Mali, extending their attacks deep into rebel-held territory.
France’s military has been in action against Islamist militants in Mali since Friday, helping government forces recapture the central town of Konna.
A resident in Gao told AFP news agency all Islamist bases in the town had been destroyed and the militants had fled.
Earlier, a presidential official in Paris had described the militants as “well-trained” and “well-armed”.
Islamist groups and secular Tuareg rebels seized northern Mali in April 2011, but the Islamists soon took control of the region’s major towns.
For months, Gao has been in the hands of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao),
France said the militants had suffered significant” casualties, as reports of the bombing in Gao, deep into rebel-held territory, came in.
The town is around 500km (310 miles) north-east of a de facto line dividing the rebel-held north of Mali from the government-run south.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said four Rafale fighter jets, flying from their base in France, had attacked and destroyed rebel training camps and logistics depots, which acted as back-up bases for terrorist groups.
Earlier, he said the air attacks were continuing as part of an offensive to drive back Islamist militants who still control large swathes of northern Mali.
“There were [air strikes] last night, there are now and there will be today and tomorrow,” the minister said.
BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding says it seems clear that French air power is now preparing the ground for a much bigger offensive against the Islamist groups that seized northern Mali a year ago.
‘Guys with guns’
France’s decision to intervene took many by surprise. A UN-backed international force had not been expected to deploy in the west African state until the autumn.
But last week, the Islamist fighters pushed further south, seizing the strategically important town of Konna. The town has since been recaptured by Malian troops.
An unnamed Elysee Palace official quoted by AFP said on Sunday that French armed forces had been surprised by the fighting quality of the Islamist militants they were up against.
“What has really struck us is how up-to-date their equipment is, and the way they’ve been trained to use it,” the official said.
“At the start, we thought they would be just a load of guys with guns driving about in their pick-ups, but the reality is that they are well-trained, well-equipped, and well-armed.
“From Libya they have got hold of a lot of up-to-date, sophisticated equipment which is much more robust and effective than we could have imagined.”
Pierre Legrand, 26, Daniel Larribe, 59, Thierry Dole, 29, and Marc Feret, 43, were kidnapped in northern Niger in 2010 by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic, were kidnapped in northern Mali in November 2011 by AQIM.
Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, 61, was kidnapped in western Mali in November 2012 by the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).
Francis Collomp, 63, was kidnapped in Nigeria by Islamist group Ansaru.
France has sent around 550 troops to the central town of Mopti and the capital, Bamako. They are set to be joined by troops from the neighbouring African states of Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Togo, some of which are expected to arrive in Mali within days.
Islamist groups are still holding several French hostages and have threatened reprisals against them and other French targets. This prompted the French government to step up security across the country on Saturday.
“Our intervention is ongoing and we will continue in order to make them [Islamist fighters] retreat and allow Malian and African forces to go forward and re-establish the territorial integrity of the country,” Mr Le Drian said on Sunday.
A spokesman for the Ansar Dine Islamist group was quoted as saying that the French attacks had focused on three areas: Konna, Douentza and Lere.
Security has been stepped up across France
Since the start of the French intervention on Friday, at least 11 Malian soldiers and a French helicopter pilot have been killed.
Human Rights Watch believes 10 civilians, including three children, died in Konna as Malian forces fought to recapture the town.
A Malian army officer said on Saturday he believed more than 100 militants had been killed.
France’s military effort in its former colony has been supported by the US and UK, which is offering assistance with transport.