. Africa News .

Mali Islamists flee bases, battered by French airstrikes
by Staff Writers
Bamako (AFP) Jan 14, 2013

Nigerian troops in Mali 'before next week': president
Abuja (AFP) Jan 14, 2013 - Nigerian troops will be in Mali "before next week", President Goodluck Jonathan said on Monday as African nations mustered an intervention force tasked with wresting back the Malian north from Islamist rebels.

"Our technical team are already in Mali. So definitely the Nigeria troops will be in Mali before next week," he said of his country's 600-soldier contribution to the African force, which is to be led by a Nigerian commander.

"We are confronted presently with a situation in Mali, let me assure you and the global community that as a nation we will work with other nations to make sure that the problem in Mali is solved," Jonathan added.

Nigeria, regional powerhouse, has sent an air force technical team and the commander of a planned African-led force to Mali to assist that country's military as it battles Islamists, a presidency spokesman had said on Saturday.

Regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meets this weekend, he said, and adding "our expectation is that by next week most other ECOWAS countries that pledged troops would have sent them so that our men will be on ground to assist Mali to liberate the country."

ECOWAS countries have so far pledged around 3,000 troops for the force.

"We can no longer surrender any part of the globe to extremism, because it doesn't pay and we don't know the next victim," he stated.

The Islamists' advance in Mali has raised fears that the country could provide a safe haven for Al Qaeda-linked extremists, posing a threat to the region as well as Europe and beyond.

Nigeria has the largest military in the 15-nation ECOWAS, but it is also battling an insurgency by Islamist extremist group Boko Haram at home in its northern and central regions.

"We must collectively discourage individuals or groups of individuals that will take laws into their hands and make the world a place that is not safe for all of us", Jonathan said.

Ghana said on Monday it will send 120 engineering troops to Mali to support the west African intervention force, a military spokesman told AFP.

"We are sending 120 troops," M'Bawine Atintande, a spokesman for the Ghana Armed Forces, said.

The UN Security Council has approved an African force of 3,300 troops to help Mali in its fight against the Islamists, but it had not been expected to deploy before September.

Mali's army is considered too weak to tackle the Islamist groups who seized the north last year, taking advantage of the power vacuum created by a coup in Bamako.

Islamist fighters in Mali fled their key bases as they were pounded by a fourth day of French airstrikes on Monday, seizing a small town in the government-held south and vowing revenge attacks on France.

As the French offensive was boosted by offers of Western support and logistical aid, Mali's neighbours readied to deploy troops for an intervention that had been plagued by months of torpor before it was kickstarted by France's swift action.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hailed the "quasi-unanimous" backing from the international community for the offensive, which his Malian counterpart said was aimed at decisively driving out the Islamists.

"We cannot simply push them back, we have to chase them away," Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly told BFMTV after meeting Fabius.

"We simply now cannot allow a timeout for these forces to reorganise."

The French flew in with fighter jets on Friday as the Islamists pressed south towards the capital, Bamako, after occupying the vast desert north since April and imposing a brutal form of Islamic law.

While heavily battered by the airstrikes, the insurgents remained on the offensive.

On Monday they seized the town of Diabaly, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Bamako, even as Islamist fighters fled many of the cities they held farther north after a weekend of heavy strikes by French warplanes.

"We knew there would be a counter-offensive towards the west," French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM Television.

"They have taken Diabaly, which is a small town, after heavy fighting and resistance from the Malian army, which was insufficiently equipped at that exact point."

He earlier told journalists that while the Islamists had "retreated" in the east of Mali, French forces were facing a "difficult" situation in the west, where he said the rebels are well armed.

Airstrikes resumed on Monday in Douentza, a town 800 kilometres from Bamako that the Islamists have held since September, but by the time the French struck the rebels had already fled.

"They are afraid of the planes. The last 4x4 filled with mujahideen left at about 4:00 pm (local and GMT)," said a witness.

In Gao, one of the three main cities in the north seized by the Islamists, the jihadists were nowhere to be seen after heavy bombing by French Rafale fighter planes on Sunday.

"We are free. We haven't seen a single mujahideen here today (Monday). They left the town and the leaders are hiding," said a resident reached by telephone from Bamako, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, residents and a security source reported at least 60 insurgents killed in the assault.

"I think in the last four days these jihadists have suffered heavy losses with more than 100 deaths," said Foreign Minister Coulibaly.

In the fabled city of Timbuktu, where some of the worst abuses under Islamist control have taken place, their fighters reportedly fled in anticipation of an attack, as no strikes have yet been reported in the desert city.

"The mujahideen have left, they are really scared," said a resident in the town, a UNESCO World Heritage site where the jihadists have destroyed centuries-old monuments they considered idolatrous.

The spokesman for rebel group Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith), Senda Ould Boumama, said the withdrawal was merely a "tactical retreat", in comments published on Mauritanian news website Alakhbar.

"Our movement's fighters have retreated from the towns and positions they occupied... with the goal of limiting damage among unarmed civilian populations," he said.

Algeria's foreign ministry confirmed Monday it had closed its 2,000-kilometre desert border with northern Mali.

Previously opposed to military intervention, the regional military heavyweight has thrown support behind the offensive and is allowing French Rafale fighter jets to use its airspace.

-- 'Worse than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia' --

Media reports have said France is deploying about 500 troops in Mali.

A convoy of some 30 French armoured tanks and military vehicles escorted by a helicopter crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast on Monday, cheered on by villagers, residents said.

A leader of one of the Islamist groups, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), vowed revenge against France, which has stepped up security on home soil in fear of reprisal attacks.

"France has attacked Islam. We will strike at the heart of France," said Abou Dardar of the Al-Qaeda-linked group.

Another MUJAO leader, Omar Ould Hamaha, nicknamed "Redbeard", warned on radio Europe 1 that France had "opened the doors of hell" with its intervention and faced a situation "worse than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia".

At the request of Paris, the UN Security Council met on Monday to discuss the conflict. The council is seeking speedy implementation of an earlier resolution that authorises the deployment of a 3,300-strong West African intervention force.

Nigeria, which will lead the force, plans to have 600 troops on the ground "before next week", President Goodluck Jonathan said on Monday.

Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Togo have each pledged 500 troops, while Benin and Ghana have also said they will contribute.

The Islamists' advance in Mali has raised fears the country could provide a safe haven for Al-Qaeda-linked extremists, posing a threat to the region as well as Europe and beyond.

France's intervention has been backed by the European Union, NATO and the United States, while Britain and Canada will provide logistical support in the form of transport planes.

NATO backs France in Mali, but says no aid request
Brussels (AFP) Jan 14, 2013 - NATO said Monday it supported French efforts to turn back the terrorist threat in Mali but that the alliance had received no request for assistance and had not discussed the conflict.

"We welcome the efforts of the international community in support of the implementation of the United Nations ... resolution 2085 (on Mali)," a NATO spokesperson said.

"France has taken swift action to roll back the offensive of the terrorist groups in Mali," the spokesperson said.

"We are hopeful that such efforts will help to restore the rule of law in Mali and ... roll back the threat" of groups which threaten the "security and stability of the country, the region and beyond."

At the same time, NATO stressed this was a national operation, carried out by France, and there had been no request for assistance nor had there been a "discussion within NATO of this crisis."

"So far, the operation in Mali is a national operation in support of Mali. It was decided by the French government.... NATO is not involved in that."

On Monday, Islamist forces based in northern Mali vowed to avenge France's fierce military offensive against them after a series of French air strikes inflicted heavy casualties.

Islamist forces on Monday seized control of a town in a fresh attack in Mali's government-held south and vowed to strike "at the heart" of France as it waged a fourth day of air strikes against them.

Denmark to back France with transport aircraft in Mali
Copenhagen (AFP) Jan 14, 2013 - Denmark said on Monday it would support France's military offensive in Mali by providing a Hercules military transport plane that would help ferry French troops and equipment.

"We will be contributing with a transport aircraft, not soldiers," Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal told reporters following an extraordinary meeting of the Danish parliament's foreign policy committee.

Agreement by the committee needs to be formally sanctioned by parliament, which is expected to rush the decision through on Tuesday.

"The aircraft will probably be able to be dispatched on Tuesday," Defence Minister Nick Haekkerup, who was also present at the meeting, told reporters.

On Monday, Islamist forces based in northern Mali vowed to avenge France for an offensive -- now in its fourth day -- which has inflicted heavy casualties.

France has said its intervention is legitimate under international law and will be limited to helping the Malian army chase out Islamists.

On Monday, French airstrikes targeted the town of Douentza while jihadists again pressed towards the government-held south, taking the town of Diabaly, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Mabako.


Related Links
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Get Our Free Newsletters
Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear


Central African PM dismissed after ceasefire deal
Bangui, Central African Republic (AFP) Jan 12, 2013
Central African President Francois Bozize on Saturday sacked his prime minister to comply with the terms of a ceasefire deal reached with a rebel coalition during talks in Libreville. Faustin Archange Touadera was dismissed as prime minister in a decree read out on public radio and should be replaced by a member of the opposition. The new prime minister was expected to be appointed later ... read more

Farmland Opportunity Includes 17,687 Great Plains Acres

EU releases all data on GM corn linked to cancer

Lady Beetle Diet Influences Its Effectiveness as Biocontrol Agent

Nuclear fears contaminate sales for Japan farmers

Taiwan mulls shipping water from China as ties improve

Wales, fishermen discuss protection zones

Living cells behave like fluid-filled sponges

Interagency Report Published on Information Required for Short-Term Water Management Decisions

US study warns of extreme heat, more severe storms

Global warming beneficial to ratsnakes

Urgent CO2 cuts may spare millions hardship: report

Climate laws advancing in many countries: survey

First world atlas on renewable energy launched

Major cuts to surging CO2 emissions are needed now, not down the road

Three new state-of-the-art power plants improve efficiency, reduce emissions

Energy independence for India?

California Ethanol Producer Pacific Ethanol Stockton Partners with Edeniq to Expand Production

Tree seeds offer potential for sustainable biofuels

Engineered algae seen as fuel source

Lithuanians recycle Christmas trees into biofuel

Nineteen children among 46 dead in China landslide

Haiti is recovering, leader tells quake ceremony

Philippines to move 100,000 squatters

Hannover Re hit by 261-million-euro loss from Sandy

Beijing choked by third day of hazardous smog

New treatment could combat deadly chemical agents

China pollution anger spills into state media

Italy extends emergency powers for Costa shipwreck

Commodity markets win support from China data

China trade surplus surges despite economic weakness

Canada gold giant ends talks over African assets

Crashed US drone found in Philippines: navy

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement