PARIS Just a few hours after a triumphant visit to Mali by France’s president, French troops launched airstrikes on Islamic militant sites around Kidal and Tessalit in the country’s north, a French Defense Ministry official said Sunday.
French troops bombarded arms and fuel depots in the two northern cities from Saturday night into Sunday morning, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press.
The official said “(the strikes) were targeting logistical arms and fuel depots near the Algerian border.” But he could not confirm that the latest attacks also targeted armed Islamist training camps.
In an interview with the Sunday’s French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hubert Tieman Coulibaly, expressed the government’s hope that the French military operation carry on until the Islamists have no more weapons left.
“Faced with seasoned fighters whose arsenal must be destroyed, we wish the mission to continue,” Coulibaly said. “Especially given how important the aerial dimension is.”
Hollande visited Sevare, Timbuktu and Bamako Saturday to a liberator’s welcome, just three weeks after France unilaterally launched a military intervention in order to stem the advance of the al-Qaida-linked fighters in Mali. Since then French troops have succeeded in ousting the rebels from the three main northern cities they occupied, including the fabled city of Timbuktu.
Though Hollande stressed the successes of the French intervention, speaking in Bamako Saturday he recognized continued threats of extremism.
“Terrorism has been rejected. It has been chased, but not yet beaten,” Hollande said.