France Rafale jets target Gao in eastern Mali..Islamists vow to fight back..did the French get permission for this?
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.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the Islamist advance in Mali had been brought to a halt.
“Stopping the terrorists, that’s done,” he told RTL radio. Had France not intervened, there was a risk that the Islamists could have advanced as far as the capital, Bamako, he said.
Islamist groups and secular Tuareg rebels seized northern Mali in April 2012.
France’s decision to intervene in its former colony took many by surprise. A UN-backed international force had not been expected in the west African state until the autumn.
France has called a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss its action on Monday.
The foreign minister made it clear that France was now targeting Islamist bases in the north and said Algeria, which shares a long border with Mali, had given permission for its air space to be used for bombing raids “without limit”.
For months, Gao has been in the hands of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), which along with Ansar Dine has sought to enforce an extreme interpretation of Islamic law in northern Mali.
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.
how many of these islamists spilled over from libya..and were in fact the wests boys on the ground a year ago?
did the french get UN permission to do this or are they doing whatever they want?
this will be the crack in the dam wall..watch the flood of troops from the west to africa..
and i dont pretend to like what islamists do either..its a no win situation really..