Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels launched a counteroffensive in Mali on Monday after four days of French air strikes on their northern strongholds, seizing the central town of Diabaly and promising to drag France into a brutal Afghanistan-style war.
France, which has poured hundreds of troops into the capital Bamako in recent days, carried out more air strikes on Monday in the vast desert area seized last year by an Islamist alliance grouping al Qaeda’s north African wing AQIM alongside Mali’s home-grown MUJWA and Ansar Dine militant groups.
“France has opened the gates of hell for all the French,” said Oumar Ould Hamaha, a spokesman for MUJWA, which has imposed strict sharia, Islamic law, in its northern fiefdom of Gao. “She has fallen into a trap which is much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia,” he told Europe 1 radio.
The UN is already estimating that approximately 230,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Mali, and the French government has heightened security in many public locations to prevent a possible retaliatory attacks on France’s civilian population. President Francois Hollande was also sure to specify that France’s only goal in Mali is to support the mission of a 15-member group of West African nations which received United Nations support back in December. source