France to buy American drones for Mali operation

An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper. (AFP Photo / James Lee Harper Jr.)


Two of America’s medium-altitude Reaper drones will be sold to France as backup for the country’s operations against Islamist rebels in Mali.

The news comes from the ‘Air et Cosmos’ specialist magazine, which reported online that a deal had been reached between France and the United States for the sale of two non-armed MQ-9 units.

The French air force had already deployed a European-made Harfang drone to Mali, with the country now wishing to acquire more modern models quickly, although any purchase of the US Reapers directly from the manufacturer (as was done with Harfang) is expected to delay delivery by seven months.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is presently on a visit to the US, where he is expected to make the announcement, according to Air et Cosmos. The defense ministry has declined to comment.

In a bid to curb the spread of extremism and Al Qaeda-linked militants in the northern parts of its former colony, France started a military operation in January of this year. The anti-government Islamists had spread Sharia law everywhere they went, and it is widely feared that if they are successful in Mali, the country will become a hotspot for extremism and the launching of terrorist attacks against European and other African nations.

French efforts have since pushed the militants into mountain and desert hideouts. However, this changed the rules of the game in such a way that they now launch sporadic guerrilla attacks.

Operation ‘Serval’ started with a deployment of 2,500 troops and the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declaring on January 30 that they would be out of there “quickly”. Since that time, that number has risen to 4,000, while the departure date had been moved up. Currently, the idea is that half will leave by July, when Mali holds their presidential election.

Although Paris has begun withdrawal from the West African nation, ahead of the security handover to the International Mission for Support to Mali (MISMA), Le Drian’s recent visit to London paints a different picture, whereby 1,000 French troops will stay in Mali indefinitely, in case further problems arise.

“This is the reason why France will remain with roughly 1,000 troops on Malian territory for an undetermined period of time to carry out counter-terrorism operations if necessary,”said Le Drian.

As the battle against extremism in Mali shows no signs of abating, international donors have pledged €3.25bn to its rebuilding, as currently the country is in a state of complete destitution.



A father has described the moment a French attack helicopter bombed his town in Mali, killing his wife and at least three children from another family. Amadou Jallo, 57, lost his wife Aminata in the attack on Konna in which 12 civilians died and 15 more were injured.

But the couple’s one-year-old son, Saida, miraculously survived the assault despite the fact he was being carried on his mother’s back when the helicopter struck. “I thank Allah that my son is alive. It is amazing, a miracle, that he was not hurt,” he said.

The deaths – which included those of three children aged under 11 – occurred two weeks ago as French forces tried to drive out Islamists who had taken the town from government forces, but are only now being reported after Malian troops allowed reporters into Konna at the weekend.

One French helicopter pilot also died in the assault, to date the only confirmed French casualty of the war. French and Malian forces were closing in on the ancient town of Timbuktu tonight after advancing deep into the territory held by Islamist rebels. Earlier, there were ecstatic scenes in Gao as government troops entered the largest town in northern Mali for the first time in nine months.

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France boosts security in Niger nuclear site for fear of Mali war backlash


France is deploying special forces and more equipment to Niger to improve security of the French nuclear company Areva, fearing a backlash in reprisal for French-led war in Mali, a report says.


Over 70 percent of French electricity comes from nuclear reactors while much of the uranium used for fuel is extracted in Niger by Areva whose production sites are located in the towns of Arlit and Imouraren in the African country, south of Algeria, French magazine Le Point reported.

The deployment came after the January 16 deadly hostage-taking incident when a group of gunmen stormed a gas plant near Algeria’s border with Libya, kidnapping dozens of foreigners and a group of Algerian workers.

The attackers, reportedly linked to the fighters in neighboring Mali, said they had carried out the attack in retaliation for the French-led war in Mali.

France launched the war on January 11, under the pretext of halting the advance of the fighters who control the north of Mali. The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark have said they would support the French war in Mali.

Meanwhile, the French-led war in Mali has forced Paris to increase security at home. The police and army presence, according to the magazine, has risen at government buildings, famous tourist sites, and subway and railway stations.

Security has also been increased around French President Francois Hollande who came to power in May 2012. In addition, armed French soldiers are reported to patrol inside the metro, ride trains and watch main streets like the Champs-Elysees.

Presently, France has over 2,100 forces in Mali while its Western allies have provided Paris with logistical support.

France has also received intelligence and logistic support from the United States.

The Economic Community of West African States has also pledged to throw their support behind France by sending some 5,800 soldiers to Mali.

Some political analysts believe that Mali’s abandoned natural resources, including gold and uranium reserves, could be one of the reasons behind the French war.


N Syria learns to hate FSA occupation, NATO errs to add new front : MALI

Members of the terrorist Free Syrian Army (file photo)

By Dr Webster Griffin TARPLEY for PressTV

When the history of the NATO destabilization in Syria finally comes to be compiled, this past week may be regarded as the turning of the tide against the foreign death squads and in favor of the Assad government.

On the one hand, official Washington – the principal sponsor of the foreign fighters – has been deeply shaken by reports coming from circles close to the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) which depict a rising wave of hatred in northern Syria against the catastrophic misrule experienced under the death squad occupation there.

Ordinary Syrians of all backgrounds are increasingly disgusted by the corruption, incompetence, and oppression of the FSA regime. The rebel chaos is contributing to a significant increase in the popularity of Assad and his regime, which had guaranteed stability and freedom from the worst privations for decades.

On the other hand, NATO commanders have committed, what may turn out to be, a fatal strategic blunder by opening a new fighting front against Algeria and Mali – sending Libyan-based death squads to take hostages at the In Amenas natural gas facility, shortly after France had dispatched troops to northern Mali to confront the advancing Tuareg — before they had succeeded in finishing off Assad.

In this, the NATO bigwigs are repeating the same mistake made by Hitler in June 1941 when he launched his Barbarossa attack on the USSR before he had achieved the decisive elimination of the British. The result became an unwinnable two front war which doomed the Nazi dictator.

Who is out of touch with reality – Assad or Obama?

The imperialist think tanks of Washington had been optimistic during the late autumn and early winter of 2012-2013 that the collapse of the Assad government would occur in short order. They were taken aback in early January by Assad’s defiant and self-confident New Year’s speech to his supporters. With her usual snide cynicism, the State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland hissed that Assad was “out of touch with reality.”

This week The Washington Post was forced to quote an expatriate Syrian journalist’s remark that “many Syrians wonder whether it isn’t the United States and its allies who are out of touch….” (Liz Sly, “Assad still confident that he can control Syria,” The Washington Post, January 12, 2013)

Then came the shocking reports that the rebel-held areas, far from becoming a paradise of freedom and democracy under FSA rule, were exhibiting the grim features of a “failed state.” As David Ignatius, a veteran speaking tube for the State Department and the intelligence community wrote on January 13, “this stark analysis is contained in an intelligence report provided to the State Department last week by Syrian sources working with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Describing the situation in the area from Aleppo to the Turkish border, where Assad’s army has largely disappeared, the report draws a picture of disorganized fighters, greedy arms peddlers and profiteering warlords.” (David Ignatius, “Anarchy in Syria,” The Washington Post, January 13, 2013)

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