- India diplomat who touts women’s rights busted for $3 wage to nanny
- MSNBC host Ed Schultz paid $252K by unions in 2012-2013
- Korean War memorial ordered to take down Christian cross
- Billy Graham near death, ‘close to going home to be with the Lord’
- SeaTac, Wash.: City’s new $15 minimum wage heads to court
- Obama mulls support for Islamists in Syria, with conditions
- Obama ‘birther’ theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- U.S. drone faulted for killing 14 ‘innocent civilians’ at Yemen wedding
- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
Mali: French troops begin land assault
BAMAKO, Mali — French troops pressed north in Mali toward territory occupied by radical Islamists on Wednesday, launching a land assault that will put soldiers in direct combat “in one to 72 hours,” military officials said.
Adm. Guillaud stressed that French infantry units “will be fighting directly in coming hours, but I am unable to say whether it is in one hour or in 72 hours. … Of course, we will be fighting directly.”
Armored vehicles loaded with French troops were seen heading toward Niono. The natural target for the French infantry is Diabaly, 250 miles northeast of the capital and about 45 miles north of Niono.
French warplanes have carried out airstrikes on Diabaly since the weekend, when a column of dozens of rebel vehicles cut off the road to Diabaly and seized the town as well as its military camp.
A trickle of refugees left on foot from Diabaly, a town seized two days ago by the jihadists who have held onto it despite a punishing bombing campaign by French fighter jets.
Ibrahim Komnotogo, a resident of Diabaly, said he fears the Islamists are planning to hide within the town’s mud-walled neighborhoods and use the population as a human shield.
“The jihadists have split up. They don’t move around in big groups. … They are out in the streets, in fours and fives and sixes, and they are living inside the most populated neighborhoods,” he said, explaining that they had taken over the homes of people who managed to flee before the road was cut off.
French warplanes bombarded the military camp, but there have been no airstrikes inside the actual town, which begins at the eastern wall of the garrison.
Residents have evacuated the neighborhood called Bordeaux, after its sister city in France, which is only 500 yards from the camp, Mr. Komnotogo said. They have moved mostly into a quarter called Berlin, about a half mile from the military installation.
“They are preventing the population from leaving. We have been trying to get our employees out, but they can’t leave,” Mr. Komnotogo said. “They have parked their pickup trucks inside the courtyards of empty homes. They have beards. And they wear boubous [a flowing robe]. No one approaches them. Everyone is afraid.”
But some succeeded in leaving Diabaly and later arrived in Niono, indicating that some were slipping through the rebels’ noose, or that the fighters had decided to allow residents to leave.
Tidiane Diarra, one of Mr. Komnotogo’s employees, said the fighters are going to be difficult for the French to weed out, because they are traveling inside the town on motorbikes, leaving their pickup trucks parked elsewhere. They appear to be melting into the population.
The head of France’s military said it is plausible that the extremists would be willing to hide behind civilians. Adm. Guillaud said the militant groups have a history of taking human shields and France would do its utmost to make sure civilians are not wrongly targeted.
“When in doubt, we will not fire,” he said.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- U.S. Navy-China showdown: Chinese try to halt U.S. cruiser in international waters
- House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose
- PRUDEN: The last living witnesses; they wore the yellow star and remember the Nazi terror
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- Billy Graham near death, close to going home to be with the Lord
- Obama birther theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- KEENE: James Clapper should resign for lying to Congress
- Kim Jong-un consolidating power or losing grip on North Korea's military
- STEVENS: Resisting the seduction of housing speculation
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow