Amid sketchy and conflicting reports of how much territory the jihadists have gained in their southern thrust and to what extent last week's French air-strikes have halted it, BBC News tells us Jan. 16 that French ground forces are now engaged in the battle for the town of Diabaly, just 220 miles north of Mali's capital, Bamako. A convoy of 50 armored vehicles left Bamako overnight for Diabaly, seemingly a joint force of French and Malian troops. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "Today, the ground forces are being deployed. Until now, we had made sure there were a few ground forces in Bamako to keep our people safe... Now French ground forces are heading up north."
France carried out air-strikes against Islamist rebels in Mali Jan. 11, helping government forces halt a drive southward by the militants who control the country's desert north. France also evidently has introduced ground forces, with President Francois Hollande saying French troops "have brought support this afternoon to Malian units to fight against terrorist elements." He added: "This operation will last as long as is necessary." Combined Malian and French forces turned back a rebel advance, retaking the town of Konna (Mopti region, see map) that had been seized by a mixed force of the militant groups Ansar Dine and MUJAO, apparently with fighters from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Mali's government declared a nation-wide state of emergency as the counter-offensive was launched.
Unknown gunmen attacked an office of the Kurdistan Information Center in Paris on Jan. 9, killing three women: Sakine Cansız, a legendary founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK); Fidan Doğan, Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress (KNK); and Leyla Söylemez, also of the KNK. Outraged Kurds poured into the street in Paris, blaming Turkey in the attack. Turkish officials meanwhile said the killings were probably a dispute among Kurds, perhaps intended to derail new peace talks between the government and the PKK's imprisoned leader, or to settle a score. (NYT, Hurriyet Daily News, Jan. 10)
Rebels in the Central African Republic Dec. 23 seized the key city of Bambari—the country's third largest—as part of their new offensive. The rebels—known as the Seleka coalition—have seized several towns north of the capital in recent weeks, charging that President Francois Bozize has failed to uphold a 2007 peace deal. The Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed with former rebel groups, called for the release of prisoners and compensation to ex-combatants. The renewed insurgents also oppose plans by Bozize to alter the constitution to seek a third term, according to a statement signed by Seleka secretary general Justin Mambissi Matar.
As Islamist miltias have established Taliban-like rule in northern Mali since taking the vast territory in March, regional powers have been muddling towards military intervention. On Nov. 21, Reuters reported that "military experts from Africa, the United Nations and Europe have drafted plans to retake control of northern Mali." We are told that "African leaders will this month seek a UN mandate to send a mainly West African force of some 4,000 to Mali to...back military operations to retake swathes of the Sahara desert from rebels." Quoted is Stephen O'Brien, the UK's first special envoy to the Sahel, speaking from Nigeria: "This deep insecurity... we have to recognize that, unless it is checked and it is not met, then it will have the potential for export." He called the Mali crisis was "a universal threat" with "the capability of threatening interests outside the...region." While no other European countries are mentioned, we may assume that France will play a leading role.
The interminable divide-and-rule game between Muslims and Jews worldwide goes on, with the latest maddening development in France. We noted last month that a bomb attack on a kosher grocery store in a Paris suburb was met with equivocation by the authorities and media, with an unseemly reluctance to acknowledge the incident as anti-Semitic—and only right-wing Zionist commentators rose to the occasion of calling it out. (Except us, of course.) Now those same right-wing Zionist commentators—namely, Jewish Policy Center on Oct. 19—weigh in on new developments in the case, as well as an anti-Semitic outburst in Malmo, Sweden. The statement ironically mimics the time-honored tactic of anti-Semites, of mixing up legitimate points with cynical shots, confusing the gullible. To wit:
Well, if you thought that France getting a new Socialist president, François Hollande, was going to mean a retreat from the Franco-dystopia that unfolded under his reactionary predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy—time to think again. Sarkozy's election in 2007 saw the outburst of an intifada by North African immigrant youth in the Parisian suburbs, followed by the unleashing of police repression. Not much later, Sarkozy instated a harsh crackdown on the Roma, ordering police to break up their camps, sparking more protests and an official censure of France by the European Commission. So what a sense of deja vu... Hollande now says his government will use "all means" necessary to restore peace after a new uprising by immigrant youth—this time centered around the northern city of Amiens—left more than a dozen police officers injured and several buildings damaged or destroyed. (LAT, Aug. 15)