Mali Islamists push south, threaten France amid new strikes

AFP | Jan 14, 2013 | JORDAN TIMES

BAMAKO — Islamist forces on Monday seized control of a town in a fresh attack in Mali’s government-held south and vowed to strike “at the heart” of France as it waged a fourth day of air strikes against them.

A local government official reported the jihadists had seized Diabaly, some 400 kilometres north of the capital Bamako.

Meanwhile, French warplanes launched air strikes on the town of Douentza, 800 kilometres north of Bamako, residents reported.

“Planes repeatedly bombed the Islamists’ headquarters in Douentza. It was destroyed but the Islamists were not there,” said a resident on condition of anonymity. Other locals confirmed the report saying the extremists had already fled.

France launched the operation alongside the Malian army on Friday as the insurgents threatened to advance on Bamako after months of torpor over a planned African military intervention to drive out the jihadists.

Experts had said a regional operation could only get off the ground in September.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed the Islamist victory in Diabaly, which put them on the road leading directly to the capital.

“We knew there would be a counter-offensive towards the west,” he 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 rebels are well armed.

The attack was led by Abou Zeid, a leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said a regional security source on condition of anonymity.

read more here on JORDAN TIMES:

http://jordantimes.com/mali-islamists-push-south-threaten-france-amid-new-strikes

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