Posted on | January 13, 2013 | 18 Comments
American political commentators have shown little interest in the war that France is fighting against an al-Qaeda-linked uprising in Africa:
As a new round of French military raids targeted Islamist rebels in Mali on Sunday, both sides of the battle said they were determined to win.
Sunday’s raids were the latest in a French operation to help the Malian government stop advances by militant Islamist forces. France has sent several hundred troops to join the fight and plans more raids on Monday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Radio Europe 1.
“We have to eradicate this terrorism,” he said Sunday.
Islamist rebels in Mali acknowledged Sunday that they had suffered heavy losses in a battle against the country’s military and French troops.
“This is a holy war. The deaths are normal,” said Sanda Ould Boumama, spokesman for the rebel group Ansar Dine, which is linked to al Qaeda.
“Our fighters are prepared to die for our cause,” he told CNN by phone.
French warplanes have bombed the town of Gao in eastern Mali, extending their attacks deep into rebel-held territory.
France’s military has been in action against Islamist militants in Mali since Friday, helping government forces recapture the central town of Konna.
A resident in Gao told AFP news agency all Islamist bases in the town had been destroyed and the militants had fled.
Earlier, a presidential official in Paris had described the militants as “well-trained” and “well-armed”.
Islamist groups and secular Tuareg rebels seized northern Mali in April 2011, but the Islamists soon took control of the region’s major towns.
For months, Gao has been in the hands of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).
OK, you’re probably asking, “Why France?” Beginning in the 1890s, France held Mali as part of its colonial possessions in West Africa. Mali became an independent country in 1960. This history, and the fact that French is the most common European language in Mali, explains why French troops were sent to fight the Islamist rebels.