This Daily Telegraph report goes to show why Malians, like Demba Boundy, are welcoming French troops to Mali, and why France is going for an all-out victory against…are they Tuaregs, or Islamic terrorists?
When AQIM occupied Diabaly last Monday, moving beyond their stronghold in northern Mali, they spread the word that “we are Muslims, we come in the name of Allah – and we are not going to harm anyone,” remembered Mr Tounkara.
They generally kept their promise, although they looted the town’s pharmacies of all their medicine and forced the population to stay indoors during the first day of their occupation. One man who ventured out was shot, said Mr Tounkara.
Many of the guerrillas were Algerians and Libyans, although most were Tuaregs from northern Mali, said Abubakar Maiga (35), another resident who fled to Niono. He could tell their nationality only by language and accent because all the Islamists kept their faces swathed in turbans.
“You never see their faces, you only see their eyes,” he said. Some people from the local area were also in AQIM’s ranks, added Mr Maiga.
French and Malian soldiers are acutely aware of their enemy’s ability to melt into the population, even after a town has supposedly been cleared. This helps to explain their cautious approach to Diabaly.
“The war against the Islamists is not easy because they will enter into the population and some of the population will join with them,” said Col Seydou Sogoba of the Malian army.
Can you detect a whiff of desperation in this oil analyst’s “analysis”?
A Libyan defense force charged with making sure the nation’s oil sector is secured said it was strengthening its lines along the western and southern borders given regional instability. A decision to use force to help ensure the territorial integrity of Mali, to Libya’s south, prompted al-Qaida militants to storm a natural gas facility near the Algerian border. Libya’s own energy sector is trying to recover from civil war in 2011 and oil production has since rebounded to close to pre-war levels. Libyan oil production was halted during NATO-led conflict, forcing a brief spike in crude oil prices. Should the Sahel descend into further chaos, the coming wars may be more than the international markets can handle.
France, the former colonial power, responded to a Malian request for military support to help thwart the advance of rebels from the lawless north of the country. Those rebels, some of which had fought in the Libyan conflict, claimed authority over the north of Mali after an early 2012 political coup in Bamako. The Malian conflict has since paralleled the NATO response in Libya, with African, U.S. and British engagements expected to some degree. In response, Algerian militants aligned with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb stormed the In Amenas natural gas complex in eastern Algeria, seizing Western and Algerian employees there in one of the worst hostage situations in years.
I had to laugh, though, when Boundy mentioned little French flags being sold in the marketplace. Those kids in his school know where the money comes from.