French officials couch it as “defeating terrorism,” but the strategy in their hastily-launched war in Mali has boiled down to one thing: pounding rebel-held towns still packed with civilians who have no place to flee.
With northern Mali’s towns spread out across the vast desert, fleeing on foot isn’t an option. Instead the civilians are trapped in the middle of a sudden war, with the French relying entirely on air strikes against the towns to allow them to advance.
At least 11 civilians have already been confirmed killed in the attacks on Konna, the first town targeted by the French, with a large number of others wounded. No casualty figures have come out of Gao, the second town, so far, but reports of bodies in the streets have been shrugged off with claims that officials assume they were all fleeing militants.
French officials, of course, insist they are being extremely careful not to target civilians with their attacks, and they are likely to follow the course of other powers relying on air strikes soon by insisting that everyone they kill is actually the rebels’ fault, but as the war continues to escalate, the northern Malian civilians are in huge amounts of danger.