Mali Islamists much stronger than expected: France

13th January 2013, Comments 3 comments

French forces in Mali have been taken by surprise by the fighting strength of the Islamist radicals they are attempting to drive out of the centre of the country, it emerged on Sunday.

Aides to President Francois Hollande admitted the militants were better equipped, armed and trained than they had expected.

"What has struck us markedly is how modern their equipment is and their ability to use it," one said in a reference to the rebels' hit on a French Gazelle helicopter.

The helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing and its pilot, Lieutenant Damien Boiteux, died of his injuries after being shot with a light arm.

The helicopter was brought down during an attack on an Islamist convoy travelling between the towns of Mopti and Sevare in central Mali.

"Initially, they appeared like a rag-tag bunch travelling in their Toyotas with a few weapons," the official added. "But they've shown themselves to be well-equipped, well-armed and well-trained."

The French officials believe the Islamists obtained many of their weapons during last year's unrest, when arms were delivered to rebels fighting to overthrow Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

"In Libya they picked up modern, sophisticated kit that is a lot more robust and effective than could have been imagined," the source added.

The strength of the Islamists appears to have bolstered France's resolve to limit its intervention to pushing the Islamists back and softening them up for a West African force to re-establish government control over the north of Mali, which has been under the rule of Al-Qaeda-linked groups since April 2012.

"The important word now is 'Africanisation', which means the rapid deployment of an African force. The situation calls for that and it is up to the Africans to restore Mali's integrity," the official said.

For that to happen, the French believe the Islamists will have to be driven out of the principle towns in the north: Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao, which was the target of intensive bombing by French fighter jets on Sunday.

© 2013 AFP

3 Comments To This Article

  • Ed posted:

    on 13th January 2013, 22:23:18 - Reply

    The above are two extremist views (by John and Amir) on either side of the issue of Islamic conquest. I prefer to believe there are rational Muslims that only want peace and view these warmaking types, like Amir, as radicals just as I view the first commentor as totally unrepresentitive of the prevailing western view.
  • Amir posted:

    on 13th January 2013, 22:00:21 - Reply

    There are two billion Muslims worldwide and they have started to take the matters in their own hands i.e. becoming masters of their own destiny, REFUSING to stay fooled or deceived by the "Western-styled" democracy which left nothing but hunger, poverty in those nations. That process started back in the Second World War but it is slowly slowly undoing all these colonists' empires built upon the power of guns, missiles, aircrafts, etc. Human power, wisdom and faith is far superior than these "toys" that West (a.k.a NATO) keeps on using worldwide. Media is their own worst enemy. If I was head of any of these NATO forces, the first thing (to avoid global embarrassments) I will do is to CENSOR every single word that media reports about this on-going CRUSADE against Islam and Muslims. Salam (PEACE) [Edited by moderator]
  • John posted:

    on 13th January 2013, 21:47:10 - Reply

    When will the western nations realize that Islamist are bound by their Koran to either enslave non-believers to lower or second class status OR exterminate them. These Islamist are NOT radical but fundamentalist. The French should have realized that giving weapons to "groups" for the overthrow of the former Libyan leader, would be used later for "other" activities to further the Islam edict.