France committed its forces to a military intervention in Mali to stop the Islamists’ advance toward Bamako. Today, they threatened payback.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Diabaly, 400km (250 miles) from the capital, Bamako, was taken in a counter-attack on Monday.
Mr Le Drian insisted France’s campaign was “developing favourably”.
He said Islamists had retreated in the east but admitted French forces were facing a “difficult” situation against well-armed rebels in western areas.
Aid workers said many people had been fleeing areas targeted by the French.
The UN Security Council is due to discuss Mali later on Monday.
In Mali, the French air force is fighting to push back Islamist forces. The German government wants to stand by its close ally and has offered Paris logistical assistance. Is Berlin getting itself into another lasting conflict?
The situation in Mali, where France has launched a military strike because of the risk that the capital, Bamako, or its surroundings could fall into rebel hands (rebels here including jihadist groups) is incredibly complex. Beyond the question of the secessionist north and the junta that staged a coup against a democratically elected government last year, what is happening in Mali has far-reaching consequences for all the countries in the Sahel region. From those that may be as fragile as Mali is (Mauritania) to countries who appear to be playing on all sides of the conflict to have their cake and eat it too (Algeria). This consequence, in part, to the Libyan civil war is going to be with us for years.
For once, I am tentatively sympathetic to the idea of international intervention, since at least it is UN-sanctioned and demanded by the local government (although of course its legitimacy is scant.) Letting Bamako handle the situation itself hardly seems to be a solution, and the regional solution I would prefer does not seem to be forthcoming since every neighbor is either too weak or too reluctant to do anything. But I am withholding judgement here, since I know next to nothing about the situation. It just seems worth highlighting, though, as this war is not likely to get much attention in English, anyway.