Mali: Islamist Rebels Tougher Than France Anticipated
French troops carry munitions at a military airbase near Bamako, Mali on January 15, 2013. The French troops are reinforcing the capital as part of a French intervention to prevent the takeover of the country by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants who have controlled the northern half of Mali since last spring. (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
January 15, 2013
| Security
| Africa
France expanded its intervention into Mali over the last 24 hours after Islamist rebel fighters proved to be better armed and more capable than anticipated. With new plans to send 2,500 French troops to Mali, France appears unwilling to rely on West African troops to deal with the challenge from the rebels who seized control of northern Mali last spring and are turning it into a regional haven for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. The French intervention is likely to succeed but raises concerns about the resolve of international community and the effectiveness of the United Nations in dealing with major security threats, as LIGNET explains.
France agreed to send troops to Mali late last week after it received a request for military assistance from interim president of Mali, Dioncounda Traore, who requested this assistance as Islamist rebels began to move southward toward the capital of Bamako and fears arose that Mali’s army might collapse and allow the rebels to seize control of the entire country. 
French officials initially said their operation in Mali would last only a couple of weeks and claimed yesterday that French forces had blocked the advance of the Islamist militants. However, France has so far only engaged the rebels with airstrikes and yesterday, despite attacks from the air, the militants advanced and seized the strategic village of Diabaly in central Mali. France responded by intensifying airstrikes against Islamist militants last night.
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