EU and Nato member state France has come to the rescue of its former colony Mali, deploying military firepower, including helicopters and ground troops, to flush out Islamist fighters of Ansar-Dine, AQIM, and Mujao, who have ‘overstepped their limits’ and seized the town of Konna in central Mali on Thursday afternoon.
Mali defence ministry confirmed that the strategic town of Konna, located some 15 km of Sévaré, has been recaptured by the army, with the help of French troops and some African elements. It is believed that Senegal, Nigeria and Niger have also sent in troops to help Mali. But the Senegal government has denied that his country was not involved in Mali operations, while Nigeria has confirmed the presence of a ‘technical team’.
Sévaré, a strategic town of 40 000 people, houses a major airfield and a military base, which the rebels were planning to seize through Konna, and from there proceed to Mopti.
One French soldier and several jihadists were killed yesterday, and others were forced to retreat, Radio France Internationale reported, as the government announced a state of emergency in the capital city Bamako. “French troops have arrived in Bamako,” one resident join on telephone told Moon of the South, confirming earlier media reports that France has deployed troops in the Malian capital city.
Mali’s acting President Dioncounda Traoré thanked France for helping his country contain terrorists. President F Hollande said at a press conference in Paris that France responded to the request for assistance from the President of Mali, a request supported by West African countries.
Hollande said the military intervention was for the best interests of France’s friend, Mali and its populations, as well as for the sake of his French counterparts living in Mali. An estimated 6 000 French expatriates live and work in Mali, according to French government’s statistics.
However, Hollande did not mention the fate of eight hostages currently being held in the Sahel region.
*Photo by Adama Diarra/Reuters. Ansar-Dine militiamen.