This post attempts to sketch out basic information about the ongoing French military intervention in Mali. The rapid pace of events, starting with an attempt by the Islamist coalition that controls northern Mali to capture strategic areas in the Mopti region, has left observers struggling to distinguish between fact, spin, and falsehood. So some “facts” rest on shaky foundations. But here is what international and local media are saying:
French aircraft have reportedly bombarded at least five towns (map below) These include:
- Konna, a town in the Mopti region which Islamists reportedly took from Malian soldiers on January 10. By Saturday, Malian forces stated they had retaken the town.
- Lere, a town near the Mauritanian border which the Islamist group Ansar al Din captured from the ostensibly secular, Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) in late November (more here), and which may have been the site of a training camp (French);
- Douentza, which the Movement for Unity/Monotheism/Tawhid and Jihad (MUJWA) took in September from a local militia;
- Agharous Kayoune, about which I could find basically no information; and
- Gao, a MUJWA stronghold and one of three northern provincial capitals.
USA Today reports that over 400 French troops are in Mali. Britain and the United States are providing equipment and logistical support. The Washington Post puts the numbers at over 400 in Bamako, and some 150 in the Mopti region. That article adds, “Mirage aircraft currently involved in the operation have been flying from nearby French bases, including one in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, but some helicopters and other aircraft have been flying from a Malian air base at Sevare.”
Different sources have also analyzed the perspectives of regional actors such as Algeria (French). Mauritanian activist Nasser Weddady wrote yesterday, “The view in Mauritania seems to be: ‘Dear France, good luck in Mali, keep us out of this mess. Thank you.”
Finally, here is a map showing four of the five towns reportedly bombed by French aircraft:
What is your perspective on all this?