France declares Mali intervention 'a success' but warns of dangerous new phase resisting guerrilla war

French forces expected to occupy last rebel town Kidal later today

Paris

France has proclaimed its intervention in Mali a “success” but warned that the conflict was entering a dangerous new phase.

French forces, delayed by a sand storm, were expected to occupy the town of Kidal, the last rebel bastion in Mali, by the end of today.

Once Kidal falls, French forces will have captured in less than three weeks all the populated areas of northern Mali - a territory larger than Spain - for the loss of one dead helicopter pilot. 

The French defence minister, Jean-Yves le Drian, acknowledged today, however, that the trickier parts of the operation were about to begin: resisting a possible guerrilla war and brokering a settlement of the decades-old grievances of the Tuareg and Arab peoples of northern Mali.

“We are arriving at a moment of transition in the French intervention,” Mr Le Drian said. “It has been a success. . The  jihadists have suffered heavy losses…They have scattered, either to their homes…or across international frontiers or to the Adrar des Ifoghas (mountains on the Algerian border). This may just be a tactical withdrawal and we should not allow ourselves to be duped.”

French special and airborne forces seized the airport at Kidal, in north eastern Mali on Tuesday night. They were expected to enter the last rebel bastion yesterday but were held up by a large sand storm.

Mr Le Drian said that French forces would enter the town shortly, accompanies by soldiers from “other African countries”. It is understood that Chadian soldiers were being airlifted north today.

No Malian soldiers will be allowed to enter Kidal at this stage. The town has been the epicentre of tuareg and arab unrest since Mali gained its independence 53 years ago. Islamist rebels are believed to have fled the town, leaving it in the hands of two, secular , separatist rebel groups who are prepared to enter talks with the government in Bamako.

Leaders of one of these groups, the MNLA, or Mouvement Nationale pour la Liberation(acute on e ) de Azawad, have warned of a possible “bloodbath” if the Malian army largely composed of black  soldiers from the  south of the country enter the town.

Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore said today that he was ready to talk to the MNLA rebels provided that they dropped any claim for independence. He said that there was no question of negotiations with the three Islamist rebel groups who hijacked the insurgency from MNLA last year.

"Today, the only group that we could think of negotiating with is certainly the MNLA. But, of course, on condition that the MNLA drops any pretence to a territorial claim,” Mr Traore told French radio.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee