Mali: France’s Hollande arrives Timbuktu
Published on February 2, 2013 by pmnews · No Comments
President Francois Hollande arrived Saturday in the fabled desert city of Timbuktu in northern Mali, where a French-led military campaign has driven back Islamist radicals occupying the region.
Hollande, who is pushing for African troops to take over the military operation, is due to visit troops and tour the 700-year-old mud mosque of Djingareyber and the Ahmed Baba library, where Islamists burned priceless ancient manuscripts before fleeing the French-led advance.
Hollande, whose surprise decision to intervene in Mali three weeks ago has won broad domestic support will hold a working lunch in the capital Bamako with Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traore, the Malian presidency said.
“I am going to Mali to express to our soldiers all our support, encouragement and pride,” said Hollande.
“I’m also going to ensure that African forces come and join us as quickly as possible and to tell them we need them for this international force.”
France is keen to hand over its military operation to nearly 8,000 African troops slowly being deployed, which the United Nations is considering turning into a formal UN peacekeeping operation.
But there are mounting warnings that Mali will need long-term help to address the crisis — the latest from German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere as he opened a major security conference in Munich.
“A military intervention is only the beginning of a long process to find a lasting solution to the conflict,” he said.
The Malian presidency said Hollande would land in the central garrison town of Sevare, then travel to Timbuktu to meet with troops and visit the 700-year-old mud mosque of Djingareyber and the Ahmed Baba library, where Islamists burned priceless ancient manuscripts before fleeing.
The trip comes as troops are poised to secure the sandy northeastern outpost of Kidal, the rebels’ last bastion.
A first contingent of Chadian troops has now entered the town, a Malian security source said, and French soldiers are stationed at the airport, which they captured Wednesday.