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NightWatch 20130114

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For the night of 14 January 2013

Mali: On the fourth day of the French military action in Mali, Islamist rebels seized another town in southern Mali, but were driven out of Konna. French officials said Diabaly, 400km (250 miles) from the capital, Bamako, was taken in a counter-attack. French aircraft continued to bomb rebel gathering areas in the north and northeast.

Comment: Diabaly is in territory considered government-held. Apparently the Islamist rebels attacked from Mauritania with a daunting force of five pickup trucks carrying rebel fighters. The Malian garrison at Diabaly claims to have fought for 10 hours, but appears to have run away. Hmmm.

Mali's Touareg rebels, meanwhile, announced they are prepared to assist French military forces in Mali by confronting jihadist groups on the ground in the country's northern region, a senior Tuareg official said on 14 January.

Administrative note: This edition of NightWatch contains an embedded, annotated map of Mali. We ask feedback from our brilliant Readers in the event the transmission is distorted or the embedded map is not readable.

Comment: It is now clear that the main French operating bases in Africa are Ndjamena, Chad for Rafale and Mirage fighter aircraft; Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso for attack helicopters and Bamako for all other operations and probably some combat aircraft operations.

French ground forces units are task organized and drawn from the Infanterie de Marine - including a unit of tanks; a platoon of La Legion Etrangere and special forces. These are the forces that historically have rescued French interests in Franco-phone west Africa since World War II. Some 2,500 French ground forces reportedly have been deployed.

Several news outlets claimed or repeated the claim that Islamist rebel elements attacked Diabaly from Mauritania. That possibility showcases the importance of a regional effort to destroy the Islamist extremists. All states bordering Mali must cooperate to prevent the Islamist rebels in Mali from finding safe haven anywhere in Sahelian Africa.

Finally, the Touaregs have discovered that life under the Mali government is more benign than life under the strict Islamic rule of the jihadis. That is tonight's good news.

End of NightWatch for 14 January.

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