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Monday
Jan142013

Mali (and Beyond) Live Coverage: French Warplanes Continue Attacks

See also US & Middle East Opinion: Sense and Sensibility About Al Jazeera America
Syria Live Coverage: Worries About "Disorganised" Insurgency and a "Failed State"
Sunday's Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Israeli Military Overruns Village of Bab al-Shams


2134 GMT: Mali. Al Jazeera English summarises the day's developments, including the insurgent victory in Diabaly in the centre of the country:

2052 GMT: Mali. Back from a break to find the separatist Tuareg movement (MNLA) declaring that it is prepared to support a joint French-Malian offensive against Islamist insurgents in control of the northern half of the country.

The MNLA originally helped Islamist forces seize the territory last April.

1733 GMT: Egypt. The British Government has confirmed that it is sending two C17 transport aircraft to aid French and Malian Government operations against insurgents.

The first plane was due in Mali today but is held up in France with technical problems.

Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated that Britain will not send ground troops.

1622 GMT: Egypt. Al Jazeera English profiles the split in the Salafist Noor Party, which finished second to the Muslim Brotherhood in last year's Parliamentary elections, before this spring's vote.

The new Salafi party, Al Watan, is also making sure Egyptians know about its Salafi credentials. "We follow the same Salafi approach," Yousi Hamad, a vice president of Al Watan, told Al Jazeera. "But we don't restrict ourselves within the limits of any specific group."

Hamad asserts that the main difference between Al Watan and Al Nour [Noor] is not ideology, but the way ideology is being used. He praised what he described as his new party's less partisan and more open approach. "We will open up to all those qualified and [who] don’t object to the Islamic project, the Islamic view of the state. We reject partisanship which divided the nation ideologically."

1620 GMT: Iraq. The al-Maliki Government, responding to largely-Sunni protests over recent weeks, has released 335 prisoners held under anti-terrorism laws.

A committee reviewing cases freed detainees whose jail terms had already finished or whose cases were dismissed because of a lack of evidence.

"In name of the Iraqi State, I apologize to those who were arrested and jailed and were later proven to be innocent," said Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, who headed the committee.

Thousands of protesters are still camped out in Anbar Province in western Iraq, where they have blocked a major route to Jordan and Syria near the city of Ramadi.

Demonstrators are also demanding an end to marginalisation of Sunnis and revocation of the anti-terrorism laws, which they claim are used to repress the religious minority.

1600 GMT: Palestine. Qatar has resumed the supply of fuel, via Egypt, to Gaza after a one-month break.

The Deputy Head of the Gaza Energy Authority, Fathy El-Shiekh Khalil, said the resumption should improve the distribution of mains electricity in the territory.

1310 GMT: Mali. Insurgents have taken control of the town of Diabaly in central Mali, French Minister of Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said.

"They took Diabaly ... after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army that was not able to hold them off at that moment," Le Drian told BFM television.

Significantly, the Minister said French as well as Malian forces were fighting to push the insurgents out of the area. This is the first reported action for French ground troops, after Paris's warplanes launched attacks last Friday.

1220 GMT: Turkey. An advisor to the Prime Minister, Yalçın Akdoğan, has said that last Thursday's assassination of three Kurdish activists --- including a co-founder of the PKK insurgency --- will not halt talks with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, “On the contrary, the resoluteness has been more underlined; the will to continue the process and to bring it to a solution has increased.”

Akdoğan said the atmosphere was much more positive, compared to secret talks in Oslo in 2010:

The parameters and format are different. Today there is a process that is taking place through İmralı [the island prison where Öcalan is jailed].

The [pro-Kurdish] Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has become part of the process, and now we are at the point of [seeing] how the calls by Öcalan will be answered. We can say that we are at a better point when comparing the two processes.

1145 GMT: Mali. Islamist insurgents have clashed with Government forces in the central town of Diabaly, according to residents and Malian military sources.

The fighting is far to the southwest of last weekend's attacks, which included French warplanes, on insurgent-held territory.

"The Islamists are fighting with the army inside the town," said one local resident. "They started to infiltrate the town last night by crossing the river in little groups."

1135 GMT: Tunisia. Al Jazeera English reports on Tunisians marking the second anniversary of the fall of the Ben Ali regime:

0955 GMT: Mali. An insurgent leader has vowed to avenge French aristrikes --- "France has attacked Islam. We will strike at the heart of France," said Abou Dardar of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).

French assaults reportedly drove MUJAO fighters out of the city of Gao on Sunday.

0935 GMT: Palestine. Al Jazeera English posts a series of photographs by Lazar Simeonov from Bab Al Shams, the village on Palestinian territory founded by activists last Thursday and overrun by the Israeli military 48 hours later.

The village is in the E1 zone near East Jerusalem. The Israeli Government has said it will support construction of Jewish settlements in the area, a pledge repeated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.

0835 GMT: Mali. Al Jazeera English features a series of comments from Gao, the main city in northern Mali, after French attacks on Sunday:

Residents in [the city], which has been under the control of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), said the French airstrikes had levelled the Islamists' position and forced them to flee.

"We can see smoke billowing from the base. There isn't a single Islamist left in town. They have all fled," a teacher said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The French have done a good job. Nearly all the Islamists have fled Gao," said one local official, who also asked not to be named. "Those who are still there are hidden in houses and are waiting nightfall to flee."

"What we need now is for the (Malian) army to come here so that the Islamists can't come back," a young student said.

0815 GMT: Mali. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that France's military operation will be swiftly completed: "Stopping the terrorists --- it's done. Today we started taking care of the terrorists' rear bases."

Fabius said the timetable of the intervention was "a question of weeks".

Fabius said Algeria granted France permission to fly through its airspace to reach its targets.

0805 GMT: Mali. French warplanes stepped up their attacks on Sunday, two days after Paris launched its military intervention against insurgents in the north African country.

On Friday, the French jets began strikes on the town on Konna, taken by the Ansar Dine insurgency, killing at least 11 people. The attacks spread yesterday to other towns and Gao, the main city in northern Mali. The warplanes also targeted training camps and depots far inside insurgent-held territory.

A New York Times summary offers background and Washington's perspective:

As insurgents swept through the desert last year, commanders of this nation’s elite army units, the fruit of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most — taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials.

“It was a disaster,” said one of several senior Malian officers to confirm the defections.

Then an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. American spy planes and surveillance drones have tried to make sense of the mess, but American officials and their allies are still scrambling even to get a detailed picture of who they are up against.

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