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Wed Jan 16, 2013, 12:49 AM

Facing the French, Mali Rebels Dig In and Blend In

Published: January 15, 2013

BAMAKO, Mali — In the face of fierce, all-night bombardment by the French military, Mali’s Islamist insurgents have hunkered down to fight again.

Barging into some of the mud-brick houses in the battle zone and ejecting residents, they have sought to implant themselves in the local population and add to the huge challenges facing the French military campaign to loosen their grip on Mali.

“They are in the town, almost everywhere in the town,” said Bekaye Diarra, who owns the pharmacy in Diabaly, which experienced French bombing well into the morning on Tuesday but remained under the control of the insurgents. “They are installing themselves.”

Benco Ba, a parliamentary deputy there, described residents in fear of the conflict that had descended on them. “The jihadists are going right into people’s families,” he said. “They have completely occupied the town. They are dispersed. It’s fear.”

More: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/16/world/africa/mali-islamists-dig-in-for-a-long-military-struggle.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

Includes a description of foreign fighters establishing a base near Gao. The French force is currently at about 750 on the ground. Expected to increase to 2,500 in the coming days.

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Reply Facing the French, Mali Rebels Dig In and Blend In (Original post)
ellisonz Jan 2013 OP
NightWatcher Jan 2013 #1
ellisonz Jan 2013 #2

Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 12:50 AM

1. The US would never have to go clean up a mess left by the French?


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Response to NightWatcher (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 01:06 AM

2. I would say that actually...

...in those terms, the French are cleaning up our "mess." There are basically three different groups: the Tuareg rebels want northern independence MNLA, the Al Qaeda types AQIM, and the spin-off more all of Mali/West-Africa centric groups MUJAO and Ansar Dine- As far as I can tell based on these reports, it's not MNLA that is advancing south. It's the other fighters that the French are taking on.

That is one of the reasons why the secular Tuareg rebel movement - the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) - rose up in January 2012 and swept the northern two-thirds of Mali, declaring an independent state called Azawad.

But the MNLA rebels were soon sidelined by al-Qaeda and its local offshoots, which pushed them from the cities and took over the region, imposing Sharia. The MNLA declined to fight al-Qaeda and beat a tactical retreat. They say their primary enemy is Mali, and until the world recognises them, they cannot lose blood and treasure opening a second front.

"We should fight al-Qaeda in exchange for what?" asks Bilal Ag Cherif, the head of the MNLA and president-in-waiting of the Tuaregs' hoped-for Azawad state.


In the meantime, Timbuktu is being run by AQIM in partnership with local Islamist armed group Ansar Dine - an organisation of mostly Malian Tuaregs and Arabs which serves as an umbrella and host for the foreign fighters of al-Qaeda, much as the Taliban did in Afghanistan. The two groups work hand-in-glove managing the Islamic police and distributing charity.

From Al Jazeera in December: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/2012review/2012/12/20121228102157169557.html

This is a mash of the legacy of Gaddafi and Bin Laden.

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