French military advances into Mali, steps up airstrikes

French warplanes maintain bombardment on large portions of Northern Mali, as a ground offensive continues within southern parts of the Azawad region, in order to push back and reclaim towns controlled by Tuareg rebel forces. France’s intervention in Mali comes with support from Western powers, which have pledged financial and logistical assistance for the French involvement in the Northern part of Mali, against what they claim, an Islamist movement with al-Qaeda backing. However, other reports claim that the Tuareg rebels under the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) welcomed French involvement against the Islamists, while opposing the entry of Malian forces into Azawad.

Reuters reported on Sunday that MNLA rebels had expressed their willingness to join the intervening forces against the Islamists, while being apprehensive about the role of the Malian military.

"The population of Azawad, for whom we are fighting, are the first victims of this terrorism and we are afraid they will also become victims of the military operation, especially from the Malian army," MNLA spokesman Assaleh had told Reuters.

Mali was a colonial possession of France, the former colonial ruler of much of West Africa, until it gained its independence in 1960. France’s colonially created borders, has led to rebellions for self-determination by the Tuareg peoples since the 1960’s for the creation of Azawad, a separate state in Northern Mali.

Again in January of 2012, the Tuareg mounted a rebellion in which the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) as well as the Islamist group Ansar Dine, began attacks on the Malian military.

A coup d’état by Western trained Malian military officers, led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, overthrew democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Touré, and instilled a military junta on March 21st 2012. With military forces diverted with securing the capital, Bamako, MNLA and Ansar Dine forces pushed southward, and declared the independence of Azawad in northern Mali in April.

The MLNA were quickly side-lined by the Islamist groups Ansar Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.

However, international political observers question Paris, and NATOs, motivation in intervening in Mali. The Tuaregs decades’ long struggle for independence has been an impediment to Western powers who wish to exploit the resource rich Northern Mali and neighbouring West-African nations, observers said.

Mali, and neighbouring Niger, have significant deposits of uranium, which France is in desperate need of, with nuclear power comprising 78.8% of French energy. Further, Canadian gold mining operations have significant holdings in Northern Mali.

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