Special Report:

Miracle of Konna: The baby boy who survived an air strike despite being on his mother's back when the bombs hit

 

Konna

Aminata Jallo had rushed out of her home in preparation for taking her children to a place of safety when the missile exploded near her. She was killed instantly, but her one-year-old son, Saida, whom she was carrying in a cradle on her back, was thrown clear.

The 30-year-old mother of four was among a dozen to die in Konna, all of them as a result of military action by French forces as they drove out Islamist fighters from the town. Around 15 more were injured, some of them severely, among them Aminata’s seven-year-old daughter Isata.

It was the fall of Konna to the jihadists, which left the road to Bamako open to them, which led to President François Hollande ordering intervention by his country’s forces earlier this month.

Until now confirmed reports of civilian casualties – indeed any casualties – of the French-led assault in Mali have been hard to verify, but the victims of Konna are almost certainly not the last.

The “collateral damage” accompanying the material destruction in the village included four members of the Maiga family. They were under a mango tree in their courtyard, preparing food, when an attack helicopter swooped down low overhead. Terrified, they ran into their home, but shrapnel sliced through the tin door taking the lives of a 42-year-old mother, who was also called Aminata, and her three children – six-year-old Zeinab, 10-year-old Alean and Ali, 11.

The Islamists were hit by a ferocious barrage from the air by fighter-bombers and helicopter-gunships. The prefecture which they made their headquarters had been left a blasted ruin; their vehicles, many commandeered after being abandoned by the fleeing Malian forces, were charred and twisted wreckage.

The rebels had also been using weapons and ammunition left behind by the Malian army, including US-made equipment. American forces have been training Malian troops, and part of a detonator cap was visible amid the debris stamped with – “Property of United Stated DoD (Department of Defence) Return to DDSP New Cumberland Facility”.

Both the Jallo and the Maiga family insisted that they did not hold any ill-will against the French, whom they said were there to save their country from a vicious enemy. Mistakes, they acknowledged, take place in such bad times.

Aminata Jallo’s sons and daughters are being looked after, for the time being, by a relation, 36-year-old Genova Coulibaly. But she has five children of her own and 57-year-old Amadou Jallo will now have to balance his job as a driver along with having to bring them up. He wondered: “They have so much knowledge and they have such modern equipment – I do not know why this happened. The Islamists were not near my home when the bombs were dropped. I know they made a genuine mistake, but I would like to know who they were aiming at.

“But I thank Allah that my son is alive. My wife was carrying him at the time she was killed it is amazing, a miracle, that he was not hurt. My daughter (Isata) has been injured, but Inshallah, she will be alright.”

There were still bloodstains on the floor of the Maiga home where Aminata Maiga had gone to protect herself and her children. Her nephew, Suleiman, recalled: “We saw the two helicopters and they were so low that everyone became afraid. Some of the people ran into the house; I ran and crawled up next to a wall.

“The noise when the firing began was terrible. When it was over I went into the house and saw what had happened; they all looked dead. My aunt’s body was on top – I think she was trying to save the little ones, but the metal had gone through them all and the wounds were very bad. I tried their pulse, but that was no good.

“Then I heard crying; it was her youngest son. He was in a corner. He must have got separated from the others when they were rushing in – he was very lucky.”

The only French fatality of the Malian war so far took place during operations in Konna, when a helicopter pilot was killed by gunfire from the ground. A further two French commandos died in a failed attempt to rescue a hostage in Somalia on the same day, both of which have cast a shadow over President Hollande’s African mission.

The recapture of Konna was viewed in Paris as a significant step in turning the tide of this war against the rebels with French forces heading towards Timbuktu today and in control of another northern town, Gao.

The Islamists are said to have lost dozens in the fighting, but that is impossible to ascertain as the retreating fighters carried away their dead. Around 70 Malian troops were killed in Konna. Some may have been executed after being captured. A number of them had rushed into peoples’ homes as the Islamists won the initial battle, shedding their uniforms, saying they would be back with reinforcements. When they failed to return after the town was retaken the residents contacted the Malian army.

“I was told by an officer that the soldier who left his things behind in my place was probably caught and then killed as he was trying to get away” said Ahmed Toure. “He was a very young man; he looked frightened. We buried the bodies we found here. I do not think they will be the last ones we bury”.

Britons told to get out of Somaliland

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) today urged all Westerners to leave Somaliland immediately, citing “specific” threats and raising the spectre of further acts of terrorism against British nationals in Africa, writes Sam Masters. 

Travel advice against visiting Somalia had already been issued but yesterday it went further, advising all British nationals to leave the region where kidnapping “motivated by criminality or terrorism” was a threat.

The FCO said there were a number of Westerners, and potentially Britons, still working for NGOs in Somaliland.

It would not comment on the nature of the threat but has warned that southern and central regions of Somalia are rife with ongoing “serious violence and dangerous levels of criminal activity”.

Last week Britons were urged to leave Benghazi in Libya in response to the threat of attacks from groups linked to al-Qa’ida.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'