Saturday, February 9, 2013




Translated from Malijet

GAO (Mali) - They were some 800 French soldiers in 250 vehicles to travel the 400 kilometers separating Thursday cities Douentza and Gao in northern Mali. Stations of the Cross: 13 hour drive, multiple mechanical failures and the fear of mines, one of which will be found elsewhere.

From Dakar in Senegal, 2,500 km from Bamako, the convoy of tanks, armored heavy and light 4X4 and supply trucks left in the Malian capital Tuesday morning.
After a first bivouac Sévaré (630 km northeast of Bamako, center) and a second near Douentza (800 km northeast of Bamako), it was left Thursday at 5:00 am for its final destination, Gao, via 400 km of bitumen infamous studded nest-holes.

It is especially in these holes that Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda, unable to sustain the battle front, bombed by the French air force since the beginning of military intervention January 11 to stop their advance towards the south, hide the night their mines, often artisanal gears, according to military sources.
The soldiers discovered daily for ten days, a phenomenon reminiscent of the Afghan insurgency strategy, which has already resulted in several deaths, including four civilians on Wednesday.
After just an hour and a half drive, a first tank is stopped, the engine cover removed. Passengers smoke a cigarette with a dejected air in the stifling heat, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery reminiscent of vertical western.

Vehicles 30 years

"It's like the Paris-Dakar with armored vehicles that are 30 years old," said a French soldier. At the request of the army, all soldiers who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.
Once a vehicle is stationary, others positioned around with their guns facing the bush arid sand and stunted trees, and soldiers are deployed to secure the area.

"We are facing an asymmetric enemy," very weak, which has now opted for the guerrillas but has nevertheless "some anti-tank missiles or anti-aircraft," said an officer.
Failures grow, the conditions (heat, sand, rutted road) do not help. And large machines are not air conditioned "inside, it goes up to 50 to 60 degrees," laughs an NCO.
Near Gossi after 230 km of road, while the convoy stops. An hour passes.

"We found an IED" (Improvised explosive device), shows a soldier using the acronym coined by the U.S. military to designate artisanal mines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Impossible to determine subsequently the type of gear found: the information is compartmentalized for security.
Gossi is a miserable village. The population is
massed at the edge of the road, cheering soldiers in the dust: "Mali, Mali", or "Mali, France".

Sympathy for the winners of the day is not unanimous: the bush villages are favorable to Islamist fighters, French and Malian military trust.
The first vehicles will arrive around 18:00 to Gao, the largest city in northern Mali (1200 km northeast of Bamako) recovery January 26 armed Islamist groups, and access to key cities of the desert Kidal and Tessalit far north to the Algerian border.

The last elements, some towed because the mechanics could not be repaired, be parked in the airport where the French are based at 0300 Friday.

Source: AFP