French Troops in Close-Quarter Combat in Southern Mali

Special Forces Fighting in Diabaly, Troops Fear Rebel Advance Against Niono

by Jason Ditz, January 16, 2013

Air strikes are continuing across the Malian frontier today, but French troops are hoping to make gains on the ground today, attacking the town of Diabaly in southern Mali in what is being called a fierce battle.

French military leaders confirmed the offensive, but downplayed the lack of progress in Diabaly, claiming that the fighters there are the “toughest, most fanatical” of all Mali’s rebels, and that the fight might be easier going if and when Diabaly is reoccupied.

Diabaly has only been under rebel control for about two days, having been overrun by rebel forces who reportedly attacked from neighboring Mauritania. A French victory in the siege is not guaranteed either, as French troops are also reinforcing the town of Niono, due south of Diabaly, fearing the rebels might just expand southward again.

Though French officials initially predicted the whole Mali war would be effectively won in a matter of weeks, and some are still expressing inordinate optimism considering the conditions on the ground, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the weekend invasion of Mali is not going to be a simple matter, but rather the start of a long, ugly war for France and the nations they manage to convince to join in.

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