On this fourth day of French military operations aimed at routing Islamist militants in Mali, the al-Qaida-linked rebels are “vowing to drag France into a long and brutal ground war,” Reuters reports.
“France has opened the gates of hell for all the French. She has fallen into a trap which is much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia,” a spokesman for the MUJWA Islamist group told Europe 1 radio, the wire service writes.
Another militant spokesman, France 24 reports, told Agence France Presse that “France has attacked Islam. We will strike at the heart of France.” On where the attacks might take place, he said, “everywhere. In Bamako, in Africa and in Europe.”
According to Reuters: “Launching a counter-attack far to the southwest of recent fighting, the Islamists clashed fiercely with government forces on Monday in the central town of Diabaly, residents and Malian military sources said.”
The news service quotes French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as saying the insurgents have taken control of the town, but that French and Malian forces were hoping to push the rebels out again.
Sunday, as we reported, French officials said military operations had stopped the militants’ advance. Islamists have been pushing to take control of Mali for more than a year and it’s feared they will use the African nation as a base to launch terrorist operations elsewhere. They have also been destroying centuries-old historical sites.
France has, The New York Times adds, “called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council for Monday.”
NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who is monitoring the story from Senegal, tells our Newscast Desk that as the French airstrikes and other actions continue, “Mali awaits the arrival of an African force to help try to dislodge the insurgents.”