Mali rebels launch amphibious assault on Gao

Black-robed Islamic extremists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles invaded Gao in wooden boats on Sunday to launch a surprise attack on the most populous city in northern Mali, two weeks after French and Malian troops ousted the jihadists.

Gunfire echoed for hours across the city of mud-walled buildings. The combat started at about 2pm in downtown Gao and the fighting was continuing as night fell. Later the sound of gunfire was replaced by that of French military helicopters overhead.

The attack in Gao shows the Islamic fighters, many well-armed and with combat experience, are determined and daring and it suggests it will take a protracted campaign by France and other nations to restore government control in this vast Saharan nation in northwest Africa .

The Islamic radicals fought against the Malian army throughout the afternoon and were seen roaming the narrow streets and on rooftops in the centre of Gao, which had a population of 90,000 before the conflict caused thousands to flee.

Families hid in their homes. One family handed plastic cups of water through the locked iron gate to others hiding on their patio. Piles of onions lay unattended where market women fled when the Islamists arrived. There were no signs of civilian casualties in the city.

The fighting appeared to centre near the police headquarters, where Malian soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades traded fire with the combatants, believed to be from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or Mujao. The only sound in the city was gunfire and the bleating of goats. Soldiers were positioned at every corner in the neighbourhood.
The report suggest the Mali army has the proper force to space ratio to thwart the rebel assault.  They do need to increase their security on the waterways to cut off the movement to contact.  I get the feeling taht both sides were using "spray and pray" tactics demonstrating the futility of indiscriminate use of automatic weapons.   A fully automatic weapon's optimum use is not as an assault weapon.  It is too difficult to control.  It is best used in a defensive position with other automatic weapons arrayed in interlocking fields of fire that create a deadly fence attacking forces must penetrate.  That is why much of the debate on automatic weapons in the US is unrealistic.


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