20 Nov 2015

Mali capital targeted by terrorists a week after Paris

A terrorist attack takes place in Mali just a week after Paris, but France and its former colony share more than a fight against terror.

French and Malian soldiers

Malian commandos have stormed a luxury hotel in Bamako after Islamist gunmen took 170 people hostage in the capital of the former French colony, which has been battling rebels allied to al Qaeda for several years.

Dozens of people were reported to have escaped or been freed, but at least three have died. A security source said the gunmen had dug in on the seventh floor of the hotel as Special Forces advanced on them.

Many believe that due to the countries ties to its former colony, today’s events may be linked to the recent attacks in Paris, which killed over 129 people and injured around 300.

France said it was dispatching 50 elite counter-terrorism officers to Bamako immediately. Paris has troops in Mali helping to fight Islamists, based in the desert city of Gao.

An Islamic State militant in Syria told Reuters that the organisation viewed France’s military intervention in Mali as another reason to attack France and French interests.

“This is just the beginning. We also haven’t forgotten what happened in Mali,” said the non-Syrian fighter, who was contacted online by Reuters.

“The bitterness from Mali, the arrogance of the French, will not be forgotten at all.”

Colonial relationship

France and Mali’s relationship may be complicated, but strong links remain.

In 1892, France became Mali’s colonial ruler which was then named “French Sudan” and the country remained so until 1960, when Mali gained independence and became a one party, socialist state.

France’s colonial period within West Africa left them with several major military bases within the continent that remain into the present day.

In January 2012, Tuareg fighters from The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad along with other rebels, launched an offensive to seize several northern towns within the country. Tens of thousands of Malians fled the area.

A year later, France became involved following the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2085, which authorized the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali and an official request by the Malian interim government for French military assistance.

On January 11, 2013, they launched airstrikes against jihadist positions in northern Mali as part of “Operation Serval”.

The goal of the intervention was to prevent the formation of a terrorist state, after armed groups linked to al-Qaeda took over vast stretches of Mali and threatened the stability and sovereignty of the country.

France deployed some 4,000 troops to Mali, alongside a regional African force, in a nine-week operation and it eventually became a larger operation that involved ground troops and French Special Forces.

Their involvement was initially welcomed as both positive and crucial, with French soldiers receiving an enthusiastic welcome many Malians in early 2013.

Since its end on July 15 2014, Operation Serval has been considered a success for pushing the al Qaeda -linked rebels out from the north of the country.