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Mali, The Latest Front On The War Agains Al Qaida

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When I heard about this whole situation, the use of the standard 4x4 VAB APC with the .50cal HMG mount was of no surprise. However as an escort vehicle surely the 6x6 version with the 25mm-armed turret would be of use? Have any of those been sighted yet? I haven't seen any pictures of one or anything on the news yet.


As for the burned out technical, I was going to say it could be the turret of a BMP-1 with the gun barrel facing away from the camera? Seems like quite a few of those have been showing up recently.

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French and Malian forces approach Timbuktu


Troops are said to be pressing towards key city in northern Mali after seizing Gao from al-Qaida-linked Islamists


Luke Harding in Sévaré and Kim Willsher in Paris and agencies

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 27 January 2013 10.42 GMT


French and Malian troops have held a strategic bridge and the airport in the northern town of Gao as their force presses towards Timbuktu, officials say.


The advances come as French and African land forces also make their way to Gao from neighbouring Niger in an effort to defeat the al-Qaida-linked Islamists who seized control of northern Mali more than nine months ago.


The French military announced late on Saturday that it had liberated the town of Gao, though other officials said the fight to control it was still in progress. Lieutenant Colonel Diarran Kone, a spokesman for Mali's defence minister, said on Sunday that the forces were patrolling Gao and had maintained their hold over the bridge and airport overnight.


The advance on Gao marked the biggest achievement yet for the French and Malian troops since they began their operation to oust the Islamist radicals two weeks ago.


Around 600 French-led troops were said to be on their way to Timbuktu, on the southern edge of the Sahara, from where several Europeans have been taken hostage. French forces are reported to have captured Lere, on the road to the desert city.


It remains unclear, though, what kind of resistance the forces in Gao will face in the coming days.


The French defence ministry said Malian reinforcements and troops from Chad and Niger had flown in and would have the task of securing Gao and its surrounding area.


Gao airport is around 3.7 miles (6km) east of the town itself. The bridge over the Niger river is at the southern entrance to Gao, one of the three main towns in northern Mali, and around 750 miles (1,200km) from the capital, Bamako. The Islamist positions in the town, described by officials in Paris as the "training camps, infrastructure and logistic bases for the terrorist groups", had already been targeted by French air strikes.


This area of northern Mali, including the key towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, has been under the control of Islamic fundamentalists since it was overrun by an alliance of Tuareg rebels and Islamists last April.


All communication with Timbuktu has been cut off, but local sources said the town was practically deserted as the rebels fled to villages and mountain areas further north while the French intervention force advanced.


Residents in Sévaré, on the road to Gao, said on Saturday they were delighted to see the French troops. "Gao is a big city. We think the rebellion is finished," said Bah Mamadoo. "This has all been made possible by the French intervention. They are helping us and our army."


As the French and Malian soldiers advanced, one Islamist group announced that it was prepared to "negotiate the liberation" of a French hostage, Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, held since he was kidnapped in the west of Mali in November last year.


At the same time as French and Malian troops were advancing on Gao, a column of soldiers and tanks from Chad, based in Niger, left the capital, Niamey, to head for the Mali border, where a contingent of Nigerian troops is camped. Both forces are under orders to head for Gao, which is less than three hours from the border.






There are reports of a platoon of Leclercs being deployed with the second French battalion group.

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Either the French are kicking butt or the Islamists are melting away for another day.


Probably a bit of both.


Mali: French troops surround Timbuktu


French-led troops surrounded Mali's fabled desert city of Timbuktu on Monday after seizing its airport in a lightning advance against Islamists who have been driven from key northern strongholds.


9:32AM GMT 28 Jan 2013


French paratroopers swooped in to block any fleeing Islamists while ground troops coming from the south seized the airport in the ancient city which has been one of the bastions of the extremists who have controlled the north for 10 months.


"We control the airport at Timbuktu," a senior officer with the Malian army told AFP. "We did not encounter any resistance."


French army spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard told AFP the troops, backed up by helicopters, had seized control of the so-called Niger Loop – the area alongside the curve of the Niger River flowing between Timbuktu and Gao – in less than 48 hours.


A fabled caravan town on the edge of the Sahara desert, Timbuktu was for centuries a key centre of Islamic learning and has become a byword for exotic remoteness in the Western imagination.


The once cosmopolitan town became a dusty outpost for the extremists who forced women to wear veils, whipped and stoned those who violated their version of strict Islamic law, and destroyed ancient Muslim shrines they considered "idolatrous".


A source in a reconnaissance team which first reached Timbuktu on Sunday said Malian and French troops had not yet entered the city, which had suffered destruction as the Islamists fled.


"We are in town but we are not many. But the Islamists caused damages before leaving. They burned houses, and manuscripts. They beat people who were showing their joy."


Residents fleeing Timbuktu were jubilant in the face of the French advance and denounced the regime the Islamists had imposed on them.


"They beat us up when we smoked or listened to music," said Amadou Alassane Mega, a young student. "They will have to pay for what they did to us."


The advance into Timbuktu known as "the City of 333 Saints", which lies 600 miles north of Mali's capital Bamako, comes a day after French and Malian soldiers seized another Islamist bastion, the eastern town of Gao.


The French defence ministry said a French armoured battalion, Malian troops and soldiers from Niger and Chad were in control of Gao after fighting Saturday in which "several terrorist groups were destroyed or chased to the north".


French warplanes had carried out some 20 air strikes on Saturday and on Sunday in the Gao and Timbuktu regions, the ministry statement added.


Gao is the biggest of six towns seized by French and Malian troops since they launched their offensive on January 11 to wrest the vast desert north from the Islamists.


The largest town yet to be recaptured is Kidal further north near the Algerian border which was the first to be seized by an alliance of Tuareg rebels and Islamic extremists last year.


Kidal is the home of renowned former Tuareg rebel Iyad Ag Ghaly, the leader of armed Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith).




Defence chiefs from West African regional grouping ECOWAS agreed on Saturday to boost their troop pledges for Mali to 5,700. Chad, which is not a member of the 15-nation bloc, has promised an extra 2,000 soldiers.


France said on Sunday it had now deployed 2,900 troops and that 2,700 African soldiers were on the ground in Mali and Niger, but French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault appealed for more aid for the Mali effort.


In the central Mali town of Konna meanwhile, where France opened its offensive 17 days ago, local people showed journalists the graves of civilians killed in the air strikes.


While Konna's deputy mayor Demba Samouka insisted there was no precise death toll available, he said that at most four civilians had died in the air raids, blaming other civilian deaths on Islamist fighters.




Reportedly including an actual combat drop by a reinforced company from 2e Régiment Étranger de Parachutistes from two C-130 and three C-160.


La Légion a sauté sur Tombouctou! Le 2e REP largué au nord de la ville


L'EMA-COM a annoncé qu'une opération aéroportée (la première depuis 2007, si mes souvenirs sont exactes) a eu lieu ce matin à Tombouctou.


Qui a sauté sur la ville? Le REP, bien sûr.


Le 2e REP, dont 200 hommes ont gagné le Mali la semaine dernière, était en Guépard TAP; ce qui d'ailleurs l'avait empêché de partir en premier (c'était le 2e RIMa aussi en Guépard qui avait été projeté).


Ce lundi matin, un largage par 2 C-130 et 3 C-160 a eu lieu au nord de la ville de Tombouctou pour verrouiller les accés. Une compagnie "très renforcée du REP" a sauté avec succès. Elle est partie d'Abidjan où elle avait été prépositionnée.


Simultanément, le GTIA qui arrivait par l'ouest (il avait quitté Niono vendredi) a pris le contrôle de l'aéroport de Tombouctou. Ces forces terrestres (600 hommes) ont été appuyées par les hélicos du GAM et des avions Atlantique et des drones.


A Gao, après l'attaque des forces spéciales de samedi matin, un poser d'assaut a été effectué par une compagnie du 1er RCP arrivée "discrètement" de Côte d'Ivoire.


A Dakar, le BPC Dixmude vient d'arriver et commence à décharger son fret dont des dizaines de véhicules qui vont prendre la route du Mali.



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now the sentinel is getting a piece of the action, at least we're getting some use out of it before it's scrapped.


Why? where RAF will get a SAR-MTI radar like that? UAV?

It was decided (by the new government) in 2010 that there'd be no need for Sentinel when we left Afghanistan, so it would be retired in 2015. That decision is being reconsidered. The change of heart was announced in 2011, after the Libyan operation, where it was very useful. This latest proof of usefulness should also be taken into account.

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26 seconds in -

French soldier:

"C'est bon, mon colonel. La ville est a vous".

Malian colonel:

"Vous me suivez, non?"



A reinforced company of the 2nd REP jumped in north of the city. That's not exactly common nowadays: combat parachute drops.

Legion Etrangere at Timbuktu

Edited by swerve
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It was decided (by the new government) in 2010 that there'd be no need for Sentinel when we left Afghanistan, so it would be retired in 2015. That decision is being reconsidered. The change of heart was announced in 2011, after the Libyan operation, where it was very useful. This latest proof of usefulness should also be taken into account.




Im glad they are reconsidering it, though one has to reflect it was a decidedly stupid decision to scrap it in the first place.


Yes that is a good word to apply here if they had no alternative.

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Seems a good place as any to put this.


At the finals of the National Poetry Competition the two finalist were an unlikely pair. Finalist number one was a Harvard educated professor of literature and the winner of several previous competitions. Finalist number two was a young Marine Lcpl. from the hills of West Virginia who needed help filling out the entry form.


The final round consisted of each competitor being given the same word and having thirty seconds to complete a verse, using the word. The Professor went first. The Judge said, ” The final word this year is ‘Timbuktu’” The Prof. started thinking. Ten seconds went by. Twenty seconds.

The crowd became nervous. After twenty eight seconds the Prof. began,

“Across the hot Sahara sand,

Trekked the dusty caravan.

Men on camels, two by two,

Destination- Timbuktu.”


The crowd went wild, there was no way that the Hillbilly Marine would ever top that. The Lcpl. was brought on stage. The judge gave the word, “Timbuktu.” The young Lcpl. looked to the sky, he thought for 10-15 seconds, stepped up to the microphone, cleared his throat, and began,

“Tim ‘en me, a-hunting went,

Met three girls in a pop-up-tent,

They was three and we was two,

So, I bucked one and Tim Buck Two!”
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Straight out of Lovecraft - first they knock down/blow up the Gates of Doom and now they burn the library.


As if there was any doubt, the video on the evening news shows the kind of vandalism and stupidity that isn't going to be solved at the negotiating table.


The News Hour on PBS reported that a rebel (or collaborator) was caught by a street mob and torn limb from limb.

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30 January 2013 Last updated at 12:56 GMT


Mali conflict: France says its troops now in Kidal


French forces say they have entered Kidal in the north of Mali, the last major town they have yet to secure in their drive against Islamist militants.


French forces now control Kidal airport after a number of aircraft, including helicopters, landed there overnight.


Islamist militants were reported to have already left the town and it was unclear who was in charge.


French and Malian forces have been sweeping north, earlier taking Gao and Timbuktu with almost no resistance.


France - the former colonial power in Mali - launched a military operation this month after Islamist militants appeared to be threatening the south.


French army spokesman Col Thierry Burkhard confirmed that "French elements were deployed overnight in Kidal".


Haminy Maiga, the interim president of the Kidal regional assembly, told the Associated Press news agency: "The French arrived at 9:30pm [Tuesday] aboard four planes. Afterwards they took the airport and then entered the town and there was no combat.


"The French are patrolling the town and two helicopters are patrolling overhead," he said.


'Eradicate terrorism'


Kidal, 1,500km (930 miles) north-east of the capital Bamako, was until recently under the control of the Ansar Dine Islamist group, which has strong ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).


The Islamist militants had taken advantage of a military coup in March last year to impose Sharia in a number of cities in the north.


However, the Islamic Movement of Azawad (IMA), which recently split from Ansar Dine, says it is now in charge in Kidal.


The IMA has said it rejects "extremism and terrorism" and wants a peaceful solution.


An IMA spokesman confirmed the French arrival in Kidal and said that its leader was in talks with them.


However, another rebel group, the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), is also influential in the area. It is ethnically driven, fighting mostly for the rights of Mali's minority Tuareg community.


An MNLA spokesman told the BBC its fighters had entered Kidal on Saturday and found no Islamist militants there.


The MNLA has also said it is prepared to work with the French "to eradicate terrorist groups" in the north but that it would not allow the return of the Malian army, which it accused of "crimes against the civilian population".


Some reports say Ansar Dine leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly, and Abou Zeid of AQIM have now moved to the mountainous region north of Kidal.


The BBC's Thomas Fessy, in Timbuktu, says that taking Kidal will mark the end of the first phase of the French military intervention.


However, he says there will remain the difficult task of chasing the fighters down across the vast desert.


The French foreign ministry on Wednesday urged the Malian government to open discussions with the "legitimate representatives of the people in the north" as well as "non-terrorist armed groups".


The French arrival at Kidal came only 24 hours after securing Timbuktu with Malian forces.


The troops had to secure the streets after hundreds of people looted shops they said had belonged to militant sympathisers.


The retreating Islamist militants were also accused of destroying ancient manuscripts held in the city.


However on Wednesday, Shamil Jeppie, the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project director at the University of Cape Town, said that more than 90% of the 300,000 manuscripts said to be in the region were safe.


Donor pledges


France has been pushing for the swift deployment of an African Union-backed force, the International Support Mission to Mali (Afisma), to take control of Malian towns.


On Tuesday, international donors meeting in Ethiopia pledged $455.53m (£289m) for Afisma and for other projects.


African leaders say the overall budget could be around $950m.


France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the meeting impressive progress had been made but that this did not mean the danger was over.


Mr Fabius also said credible elections in Mali would be vital to achieving sustainable peace in the country.


Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore said on Tuesday that he wanted to hold "transparent and credible" elections by 31 July.



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