Fighting in this regional war for control of Mali is now at a stage where Malian and French military forces seem to be prevailing. These forces have liberated the city of Gao; they have hunted down and beaten Islamic terrorists who had not fled as the military moved in. Extremist Islamic control is slipping; the capitals of Gao and Timbuktu have come under government authority. It is thought the extremists are also losing in the city of Kidal. ABC News reports:
France, the former colonial ruler, began sending in troops, helicopters and warplanes on Jan. 11 to turn the tide after the armed Islamists began encroaching on the south, toward the capital. French and Malian troops seized Gao during the weekend, welcomed by joyous crowds. They took Timbuktu on Monday. The Islamists gave up both cities and retreated into the desert.
Sources told reporters on Tuesday that the Malian military is in control in Timbuktu. They have met little resistance, but the towns will be more difficult to hold than they were to recapture. The French military released photos showing jubilant residents greeting the troops.
“The Malian military is in control of Timbuktu,” Modibo Traore, whom the legitimate military emplaced as interim president, announced on Tuesday morning. The freeing of Timbuktu sparked celebratsion by thousands of Timbuktu residents who had fled the strict and pitiless Islamic rule.
The rebels intentionally destroy historical documents and irreplaceable manuscripts, some of which date back to the 12th century and are considered as important as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The United States is working with Niger to set up a base for surveillance drones which will be used to collect intelligence and to monitor the movements of the Islamic extremists. They will not be designed for combat, simply surveillance. The US says it will not place troops in Mali, but has provided France with support, including transporting troops and refueling warplanes. One unnamed official notes that establishing a drone base will require infrastructure, security, and support.
Photo: New York Daily News