French, Malian troops reclaim Diabaly

Jan. 21, 2013 at 5:04 PM
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BAMAKO, Mali, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- French and Malian troops finished shoving Islamic insurrectionists out of Diabaly Monday as more troops arrived in Mali from other African nations.

Mop-up operations backed by French tanks sought to root out any rebel stragglers, the British newspaper The Guardian reported from Paris.

About 200 French troops were combing the town as a half-dozen combat helicopters and reconnaissance planes flew support cover.

The Guardian said some locals who left their homes to welcome the French and Malian forces said the insurgents started pulling out after French warplanes bombarded their positions Thursday.

With the arrival of reinforcements, there are now about 1,000 African troops in Mali in addition to French forces, the newspaper said.

U.S. military cargo aircraft are being used to transport the French troops and equipment to the troubled region, a U.S. military official said.

"The airlift mission will continue over the next several days," the unnamed official said.

Britain, Denmark and Canada also have contributed logistical support.

Abdel Fatau Musah, spokesman for the Economic Community of West African States, told The Guardian the entire deployment is scheduled to be completed by Jan. 29.

Musah told the newspaper European countries had agreed to help finance the African military intervention, which is expected to last for months, possibly even years.

"The EU in particular has already promised an initial amount of around 550 million euros [$732 million]," he said. "The U.S. and many other countries have also decided to contribute.

"The initial period for the African deployment under the U.N. Security Council resolution was one year. How much longer than that ... depends upon the situation on the ground. If they are not able to complete within that time, it will be extended."

An official with an organization of African states called on the international community to support troops deployed to Mali to assist government forces.

Musah told Voice of America the international community needs to provide financial and logistical support for the international forces, adding now was not "a time to hold back."

"The whole conflict has been internationalized because of the whole issue of this criminal network, this terrorist network, that threatens not only West Africa but also the international community," he said. "France itself has acknowledged that it needs West African troops on the ground to make its air force worthwhile."

French Defense Minister Jen-Yves Le Drian said France, which sent troops to Mali last week, won't accept anything short of complete defeat of Islamic militants in northern Mali.

Le Drian said French forces "will not leave any pockets" of resistance of militants who took control of the northern Mali and began moving south toward the capital, Voice of America reported Monday.

Military personnel from Benin, Niger, Nigeria and Togo are also in Mali as part of an African intervention force.

Witnesses in Sevare, which has an airport, described the town as being in a "state of war," Voice of America said.

Militants seized control of northern Mali after soldiers orchestrated a coup that toppled the government early last year, leaving the country in political upheaval. The militants have imposed harsh conservative Islamic law across the north.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning Friday, advising U.S. citizens to avoid going to Mali because of threats of attacks and kidnappings.

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