'We are not messengers of death in Mali', says French colonel

 

Paris

The French military has distanced itself from a photograph taken during its operations in Mali, after the image of a soldier with his face obscured by a menacing skull bandana went viral.

The French army issued a statement repudiating the use of the bandana, which is sold as an accessory of the  violent computer game, Call of  Duty. Colonel Thierry Burkhardt, spokesman for the French chiefs of staff, said the image “is not at all representative of the action undertaken in France in Mali at the request of the Malian state”.

“Far from being messengers of death”, Colonel Burkhardt went on, French soldiers were “risking their own lives” to prevent Mali from becoming a terrorist state controlled by militant Islamists.

The photograph was taken last weekend near Niono in central Mali as French and Malian forces advanced to regain ground from a loose alliance of Islamist groups which control the immense deserts and semi-deserts of the north of the country. More than 2,300 French soldiers have arrived in Mali since the operation began.

In the last two days the French and local forces, supported by air-strikes, have advanced without opposition to recapture the towns of Diabaly and Douentza. French media reported today that President François Hollande wanted the advance to extend to one of the larger towns in northern Mali, either Gao or Timbuktu, in the next few days.

Officially, the recapture of northern Mali, which is larger than Spain, is to be left to the Malian army and a multi-national force of at least 3,000 troops from west African countries. Earlier this week, however, the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, implied that French ground forces would also be involved in the drive to recapture “every square kilometre” of Mali.

France has insisted that its intervention is a “war against terrorism” and not a return to its post-colonial habit of intervening in its former African territories, hence the sensitivity about the soldier wearing the bandana.

The bandana represents the  character Ghost, who appears in the Call of Duty video game series about US Special Forces.

Algerian government acknowledges military casualties

Algeria today claimed that it did not sustain heavy losses in the operation to end the Saharan gas plant siege, and that only eight soldiers suffered minor wounds during a four-day siege of a gas plant by al-Qaida-linked militants who took dozens of foreigners hostage.

It was the first acknowledgement by the government of any military casualties in the standoff at the Ain Amenas plant, where 37 hostages and 29 militants died.

The militants, armed with explosives and automatic weapons, had threatened to blow up the entire complex. Algerian troops tried twice to end the crisis, first by firing from attack helicopters before finally launching a ground assault.

The Defense Ministry condemned Wednesday what it called “insinuations” it took heavy losses. It says the eight wounded were already back at work.

Algerian authorities are typically reluctant to announce military losses. AP

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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

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
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
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
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
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
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
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste