Mali: French army secures key bridge

2013-01-16 13:32

Markala - French troops on Wednesday secured a strategic bridge along the Niger river in western Mali, to block the advance of Islamist fighters south towards the capital Bamako.

"Our mission is to hold this bridge to prevent the enemy from accessing the south," Colonel Frederic of the 21st marine infantry regiment from Chad told AFP.

A military source said the Islamists were at least 80km north of Markala, putting them only 200km from Bamako.

The contingent of about 100 troops are travelling in about 20 vehicles which left Bamako airport on Tuesday to relieve French special forces soldiers who have been in place since last week, along with a few Malian soldiers.

The French forces have launched their first ground offensive since their air assault on the al-Qaeda-linked Islamists occupying Mali's north began on 11 January, to prevent the insurgents from advancing on the capital.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the 800 troops already deployed in Mali faced a long and tough battle against determined fighters whose number he estimated at up to 1 300.

"It's a little more difficult in the west, where we have the toughest, most fanatical and best-organised groups. It's under way there but it's difficult," he said.

  • nervern - 2013-01-16 13:59

    Great stuff France...

      jesibelle.krueger - 2013-01-16 22:12

      Unlike the Americans (of "Black Hawk Down" fame), the French understand what it takes to fight in Africa - ie much like the old South African Defense Force did. You strike fast, hard, with maximum brutality and you take no prisoners. It is like rooting out the weed in your garden - if you leave on small sprout behind, before you know it - the problem is back. In time the world will learn that total extermination is the only formula to eliminate a problem (problems the world can no longer afford financially) - the American approach of "managing" a problem has simply created a replay of Vietnam, over and over... Is the French Air Force not just absolutely the 'cat's whiskers'..? They did it in Libya, now in Mali - lets pray they will show a brotherhood towards those who were once their own (French) Huguenots once and they do the same to Zuma and his communist extremists... Vive la France, Vive la République, Vive la Résistance..!!

  • gert_swart - 2013-01-16 14:33

    Go, France!

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