French Intervention Brings Relief in Mali, Al-Qaeda-Linked Hostages in Algeria

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Photo:

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Photo:

PARIS. – “Vive la France !” “Welcome to the liberators!” The headlines of Malian newspapers are increasingly complementary to France, following the French intervention in Mopti and Konna. After a year of violence due to an Islamist hijaking of the Tuareg separatists’ rebellion, the Malians are relieved the conflict has subsided.

Since President François Hollande announced France’s intervention in Mali, much has unfolded. With the first day of operations came the first causality, Lieutenant Damien Boiteux, who crashed his helicopter while participating in a terrorist column attack. Many more followed, and a Malian general stated that the fight to get back the city of Konna caused “a lot of deaths.” However, France is not fighting alone. A force of 2000 men from the West African intervention force lead by Nigerian general, Shehu Abdulkadir are on their way. The forces have not arrived yet because of relatively limited mobility. Abdulkadir is supplying 900 men of his own. Even though as of now only western nations have contributed troops, France insists it is not trying to be the gendarme of Africa.

“Nobody can say that France wanted to enter into a military operation,” French UN delegate Gérard Araud stated on January 14th. He added, “For the last twelve months, the French looked for a political and diplomatic solution. We have tabled three resolutions, all of them are calling for a political settlement between the North and the South, and given the Malians and Africans a unique role ¾ to re-establish the territorial integrity of Mali.”

France’s involvement with the Malians came at a heavy price. As retaliation for the French initiative in Mali, an Al Qaeda-linked group attacked a joint-venture gas field in southern Algeria. The attack was revenge for Algeria’s support of France’s reproach of Al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups in Mali. 41 foreigners were taken hostage. At least four people were killed in the attack. A recent study showed that, even though 65% of French people support the intervention, over 70% expect further retaliation and terrorist attacks on French soil. Only time will tell.

Out of the all the concerns, domestic attacks might be the most prominent. The Merah case still is not fully solved, as the public is hearing of his training in Pakistan and the possible participation of his brother in the attacks of last spring. Meanwhile a new operation has been launched, which was decided rapidely in an obvious state of emergency, but without any concertation or notice, despite its possible global consequences.

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