Obama outsources war with al Qaeda in Mali
French fighter jets pounded an Islamist rebel stronghold in northern Mali on Sunday as Parispoured more troops into the capital Bamako, awaiting a West African force to dislodge al Qaeda-linked insurgents from the country's north.
The attack on Gao, the largest city in the desert region controlled by the Islamist alliance, marked a decisive drive northwards on the third day of French air strikes, moving deep into the vast territory seized by rebels in April.
France is determined to end Islamist domination of north Mali, which many fear could act as a base for attacks on the West and for links with al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.
France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French intervention on Friday had prevented rebels driving southward to seize Bamako itself. He said air raids would continue in the coming days.
"The president is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country and Europe," he told French television.
In Gao, a dusty town on the banks of the Niger river where Islamists have imposed an extreme form of Sharia law, residents said French fighters and attack helicopters pounded the airport and rebel positions. A huge cloud of black smoke rose from the militants' camp in the north of the city.
"The planes are so fast you can only hear their sound in the sky," resident Soumaila Maiga said by telephone. "We are happy, even though it is frightening. Soon we will be delivered."
A Malian rebel spokesman said the French had also bombed targets in the towns of Lere and Douentza.
...Al Qaeda is having the same problem it had in Yemen. When it tries to take and hold real estate it becomes more vulnerable. It is easier to target its forces when they are massed to defend a specific location. They lose the ambiguity they had of picking the time and place of attacking our forces. While they have heavier arms as a result of the Libyan debacle, they still have difficulty dealing with combined arms operations.