Timbuktu gives France’s president an ecstatic welcome
France’s president, François Hollande, paid a triumphant visit to this ancient city on Saturday, receiving a rapturous welcome from thousands of people who gathered next to a 14th-century mosque to dance, play drums and chant “Vive la France!” The muezzin, whose singing calls residents to pray five times a day, wore a scarf in the colors of the French flag as he shouted, “Vive Hollande!”
It had the trappings of a “mission accomplished” moment.
But even as people outside the mud-and-wood mosque hailed the French leader as the city’s, and their country’s, savior, questions remain about what France has accomplished aside from chasing Islamic extremists from the cities and into their desert and mountain redoubts.
“These Islamists, they have not been defeated,” said Moustapha Ben Essayouti, a member of one of the city’s most prominent families who lined up to greet Mr. Hollande here. “Hardly any of them have been killed. They have run into the desert and the mountains to hide.”
Even Mr. Hollande, who praised French and Malian troops gathered here for accomplishing “an exceptional mission,” acknowledged that “the fight is not over.”
Indeed, little is known about the fate of fighters who fled the cities that have been retaken in the lightning northward advance by French and Malian troops to clear Islamists who had taken over the north of the country in recent months. In interviews, residents of cities now abandoned by the Islamist rebels have said that the bulk of the fighters fled in the night long before the French arrived.
Given the fighters’ deep familiarity of the vast, forbidding territory between this city and the borders of Algeria and Mauritania, many worry that the Islamist groups will simply regroup and come back to try again.
“If France leaves, they will come back,” Mr. Essayouti said.
yeah what a great victory..its almost napoleonic!!..you beat up a small bunch of islamic africans who had rpgs and rifles.. small