Security Situation in Mali (7 February 2013)February 7, 2013 in Mali
Over the past forty-eight hours, Chadian soldiers have continued to secure the town of Kidal in Mali while France has urged the United Nations to send peacekeepers into Mali as French troops prepare to withdrawal from the mission by March 2013. The security situation throughout the country remains to be volatile as counter attacks by Islamist rebels have indicated that while all of the cities in the northern region have been retaken, the rebels continue to have the capabilities of regrouping and staging hit and run attacks. It is highly likely that such attacks and clashes will continue to occur during the transitional period as the rebels will attempt to use this moment to regain their access.
On Tuesday, an estimated 1,800 Chadian troops entered the northern town of Kidal in order to continue securing the last major Islamist rebel stronghold. Meanwhile reports have indicated that there are rising tensions in Mali as the French-led forces have been attacked by Islamist rebels in retaken territories, raising fears that a prolonged insurgency may occur. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed on Tuesday that rebels had hit back at troops with rocket fire in Gao, which is the largest northern city.
Meanwhile after announcing plans to start withdrawing its 4,000 troops from Mali in March, France has called on the United Nations to begin deploying its peacekeeping force in order to take over the mission. Speaking to the media in Paris, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius indicated that a peacekeeping force could be in place by April and that it would incorporate troops being deployed under the banner of the West African intervention force. France wants the UN force to help stabilize Mali and to seek an end to the long-standing conflict between the ethnic Tuaregs and Arabs and the rest of the population.
So far, France has sustained one fatality, a helicopter pilot who was killed at the beginning of the mission. The Malian army has indicated that eleven of its troops have been killed while another sixty have been wounded. France’s Defence Minister has indicated that the monthlong French offensive has killed hundreds of Islamist fighters in Mali.