Two French Journalists Killed in Northern Mali

A pair of French journalists were kidnapped and killed Saturday in northern Mali, according to the French Foreign Ministry. Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont, who were working at radio station RFI in Kidal, were found dead just hours after they were taken by armed men, reports the Associated Press. The journalists had just interviewed a Tuareg rebel leader, according to a Kidal city official. Kidnappings of foreigners, especially French, have become frequent in northern Mali since it was overtaken by an al-Qaeda faction. The organization uses ransom from kidnappings to fund its operations. [AP]b.gif?host=world.time.com&blog=19871253&post=113475&subd=timeglobalspin&ref=&feed=1

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Dutch to Send 368 Troops to U.N. Force in Mali

(THE HAGUE, Netherlands) — The Dutch government is sending 368 troops to join a U.N. peacekeeping force in the conflict-torn West African nation of Mali, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Friday. In a letter sent to Parliament, Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the Dutch contingent will include 220 troops, including 90 special forces commandos, who will take part in intelligence gathering and operate four Apache helicopters. Ten police officers and a small group of civilian support staff also will join the mission. Sending soldiers to U.N. peacekeeping missions is an emotionally charged decision for the Dutch, who suffered a national trauma when the country’s soldiers were unable to prevent Bosnian Serb forces from storming the Srebrenica enclave in Bosnia in July 1995, and killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the worst massacre on European soil since World War II. Rutte said the decision to deploy Dutch troops was a tough one, but that “all lessons from previous missions have been learned.” Mali was plunged into turmoil after a March 2012 coup created a security vacuum that allowed secular Tuareg rebels to take over half of the country’s north. Months later, the Tuaregs were kicked out by Islamic jihadists, many linked to al-Qaida. When the Islamists started moving into government-controlled areas in Mali’s south, France launched a military offensive on Jan. 11 to oust them. Remnants of the Islamists still remain, however. Rutte said it was in the Netherlands’ interest to join an international crackdown on a looming threat in northern Africa. “We want to contribute to preventing a further proliferation of terrorism and serious criminality at the southern border of Europe,” he said. In his letter to Parliament, Timmermans said northern Mali “has become a breeding ground for extremism and a sanctuary for terrorist training.” France has more than 3,000 troops in Mali, and French President Francois Hollande has said that a drawdown to 1,000 troops will be delayed slightly from the end of the year to the end of January 2014. A new U.N. peacekeeping force known………………

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French President Says War on Terror Won in Mali

(BAMAKO, Mali) — French President Francois Hollande declared Thursday that the war on terror had been won in the West African nation of Mali, listing the towns that French and Malian troops liberated from al-Qaida’s local fighters earlier this year. Hollande spoke before more than a dozen heads of state at inauguration festivities for Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who overwhelmingly won the election that France urged Mali to hold only months after the radical jihadists had been largely ousted from power in northern Mali. “We have won this war; we have chased out the terrorists; we have secured the north and finally … we have, you have organized an uncontested election and the winner is now the president of Mali,” Hollande told the crowd gathered at a sports stadium in the Malian capital. “If there had not been an intervention, today the terrorists would be here in Bamako,” he said. Several radical Islamic militant groups were able to seize control of northern Mali in the aftermath of a March 2012 coup in the distant capital of Bamako. Once in power, they instituted their harsh interpretation of Islamic Shariah law, meting out amputations and whippings as punishments and forcing women to wear the veil in public. As they threatened to push further south, France launched a military operation in January that was joined by soldiers from a number of neighboring countries. The Jihadists retreated from major centers in the north including Timbuktu and Gao. However, some analysts cast doubt on Hollande’s claim of victory. There are “persistent reports that jihadists have either started filtering back into Mali or never left,” said Andrew Lebovich, an analyst who focuses on political and security issues in the Sahel and North Africa. “While the French intervention reversed the jihadist push south, significantly degraded the capacity of regional terrorist groups to operate in Mali and killed or scattered a large number of fighters and commanders, it is a stretch to say that the war is won,” he said. Keita formally took the oath of office………….

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New Mali President Keita Sworn into Office

(BAMAKO, Mali) — Mali’s new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita took the oath of office Wednesday, promising to help unify the country after a rebellion, a coup and an Islamic insurgency plunged what was one of West Africa’s most stable democracies into near ruin. Keita emerged as the overwhelming victor of the first election held since mutinous soldiers overthrew longtime President Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012. In the aftermath, al-Qaida-linked jihadists seized power across northern Mali and were only ousted by a French-led military offensive earlier this year. After taking the oath of office in front of an enormous Malian flag, Keita thanked the international community for its support in retaking the north from the hands of extremists and vowed to prioritize national unity. “I swear before God and the Malian people to loyally protect the republican regime, to fulfill my functions in the best interest of the people, to preserve democratic gains, to protect national unity, the independence of the homeland and Mali’s territorial integrity,” Keita said. While he officially became Mali’s president on Wednesday, an inauguration celebration is to take place on Sept. 19. World leaders, including French President Francois Hollande, are expected to take part. Mali’s constitution requires that the swearing-in ceremony takes place two weeks after official results are released. Keita won Mali’s Aug. 11 presidential runoff with 77.6 percent of the vote. His opponent, Soumaila Cisse, conceded defeat even before those results were announced. Many voters said they thought Keita was best equipped from an initial field of 28 candidates to reunite the nation after more than a year of turmoil. Once he names his government, though, he will have only two months to resume talks with the northern Tuareg rebel group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, the name they call their homeland. In addition to the simmering rebellion in the north, Keita also faces the tasks of tackling corruption and ethnic tensions, and rebuilding the country’s economy. And even as he tries to move past Mali’s coup era,b.gif?host=world.time.com&blog=19871253&post=101450&subd=timeglobalspin&ref=&feed=1

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