West and Central Africa Correspondent
David's Feed
Feb 8, 2013

Foreign hostages in Mali were held in Timbuktu until its fall

TIMBUKTU (Reuters) – A feared commander of al Qaeda’s North African wing kept several foreign hostages locked in a house in Timbuktu until just before French and Malian troops captured the ancient desert trading town last month, residents said.

Islamist rebels in northern Mali, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), are holding at least seven French citizens, a Swede, a Dutchman, and a South African kidnapped in recent years in parts of the Sahara desert.

Feb 6, 2013

Stretched in Timbuktu, French wait for African reinforcements

TIMBUKTU, Mali (Reuters) – Patrolling Timbuktu’s maze of mud-brick houses, the French troops quickly lost their way, their jeeps stuck, wheels spinning, in the sand of the ancient Saharan trading town.

“We don’t know the terrain and sometimes we are working with maps that are out of date,” said the patrol leader, Sergeant Jeremy, who like other French soldiers deployed in Mali was only authorized to give his first name.

Feb 3, 2013

Mali’s soccer victory caps Timbuktu’s post-Islamist rebirth

TIMBUKTU, Mali (Reuters) – For months, Salaha Najim would discreetly put up a satellite dish banned by the Islamist rebels in dusty Timbuktu, close the shutters of his house and turn on the television to watch soccer with the sound turned down.

On Saturday, the windows were open wide again and the volume was unashamedly loud as Mali’s national team, the Eagles, beat South Africa in a penalty shootout to reach the semifinals of the African Nations Cup.

Feb 3, 2013

Mali hails “savior” Hollande, he says fight not over

TIMBUKTU, Mali/BAMAKO (Reuters) – Cheering, grateful Malians mobbed French President Francois Hollande on Saturday as he visited French troops fighting Islamist jihadist rebels, and he pledged France would finish the job of restoring government control in the Sahel state.

In a one-day trip to Mali accompanied by his ministers for defense, foreign affairs and development, Hollande was hailed as a liberator in the ancient northern city of Timbuktu, which French and Malian forces retook from the rebels six days ago.

Feb 2, 2013

Malians say “Thank you, France!” as Hollande visits

TIMBUKTU, Mali (Reuters) – Malians chanting “Thank you, France!” mobbed President Francois Hollande on Saturday as he visited the desert city of Timbuktu, retaken from Islamist rebels, and pledged France’s sustained support for Mali to expel jihadists.

Hollande, accompanied by his ministers for defense, foreign affairs and development, was on a one-day trip to the Sahel nation to support French troops who in three weeks have ousted fighters allied with al Qaeda from Mali’s main northern towns.

Feb 2, 2013

French president in Mali to back French troops, visits Timbuktu

TIMBUKTU, Mali (Reuters) – French President Francois Hollande flew to Mali on Saturday to support French troops fighting Islamist rebels in the Sahel nation, and he visited the famed ancient city of Timbuktu that was recaptured from al Qaeda-allied fighters six days ago.

Hollande, accompanied by his ministers for defense, foreign affairs and development, was greeted by a group of dancers and singers at Timbuktu airport and then went on to visit the Grand Mosque in the UNESCO World Heritage Site city.

Feb 1, 2013

France, Africa face tough Sahara phase of Mali war

BAMAKO/DAKAR (Reuters) – The French or African troops who hunt down the Islamist fighters holed up in the mountains and deserts of northeast Mali may find a resilient enemy capable of fighting back with a concealed arsenal of surprising firepower.

France’s initial success in its three-week old intervention in its former colony has gained Paris plaudits at home and abroad as a welcome blow struck against radical jihadists threatening Africa and the West.

Feb 1, 2013

Analysis: France, Africa face tough Sahara phase of Mali war

BAMAKO/DAKAR (Reuters) – The French or African troops who hunt down the Islamist fighters holed up in the mountains and deserts of northeast Mali may find a resilient enemy capable of fighting back with a concealed arsenal of surprising firepower.

France’s initial success in its three-week old intervention in its former colony has gained Paris plaudits at home and abroad as a welcome blow struck against radical jihadists threatening Africa and the West.

Jan 24, 2013

Mali Islamists suffer split as Africans prepare assault

MARKALA, Mali/DAKAR (Reuters) – A split emerged on Thursday in the alliance of Islamist militant groups occupying northern Mali as French and African troops prepared a major ground offensive aimed at driving al Qaeda and its allies from their safe haven in the Sahara.

A senior negotiator from the Ansar Dine rebels who helped seize the north from Mali’s government last year said he was now part of a faction that wanted talks and rejected the group’s alliance with al Qaeda’s North African franchise AQIM.

Jan 24, 2013

Mali Islamist group splits, faction leader wants talks

DAKAR (Reuters) – A faction of one of the armed Islamist groups occupying the north of the Mali has split off from its al Qaeda allies and says it is willing to hold talks with the government, the leader of the new group said on Thursday.

Alghabass Ag Intallah, a senior member of the Tuareg-led Ansar Dine group which helped seize northern Mali last year from government forces, said he had created a new organization, the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA), and was ready to seek a negotiated solution to Mali’s conflict.