Hollande to triple French troops number in Mali

Presently there are 750 troops stationed in Mali and the number is expected to touch 2500 in the weeks ahead.

Updated: Jan 16, 2013, 09:36 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Bamako: In a bid to strengthen French operations against Islamist fighters in Mali, French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday suggested that the number of French troops in Mali will be trebled in coming weeks.

Presently there are 750 troops stationed in Mali and the number is expected to touch 2500 in the weeks ahead, as per a BBC report.

Hollande also hinted at the prospects of African military force working in co-ordination with the French contingent in days ahead.

"For now, we have 750 men and the number will increase. New strikes overnight achieved their goal," Hollande said on a visit to a French military base in UAE.

The five day old French-led effort in Pakistan has assumed much significance with 13 nations joining in assisting France against the Islamists in Mali, either by offering to send troops, or else provide supplies and logistical help.

Britain`s Ministry of Defense confirmed Tuesday that their RAF C17 aircraft carrying French military personnel and supplies had arrived in the capital, Bamako.

French forces continued bombing the town of Diabaly overnight yesterday, which was seized by the Islamists which have turned out to be better equipped than expected, according to French officials.

However President Hollande exhibited full confidence in its troops saying that he was sure the French operation would succeed.

"We are confident about the speed with which we will be able to stop the aggressors, the enemy, these terrorists. Air strikes were conducted overnight so that the terrorists who are seeking refuge in Diabaly — they have not conquered the town and are hiding inside it to protect themselves — will be chased out, " said Hollande.

On the other hand, the Islamists who are armed better than expected, mocked French intervention warning that they shouldn’t smell victory too soon.

"I would advise France not to sing their victory song too quickly. They managed to leave Afghanistan. They will never leave Mali," said Oumar Ould Hamaha, a commander of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the extremist groups controlling northern Mali, whose fighters are believed to be in Diabaly.

"The French resemble a fly that was attracted to a pot of honey. Now their feet are sticky. They can`t fly away anymore. France has opened the doors of hell.”

The al-Qaida-linked groups control an area that is the size of France itself in northern Mali, a territory larger than even Afghanistan. They seized it in conjunction with other rebel groups nine months ago, and have imposed a brutal version of Islam.

With Agency Inputs