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The Malian Front: France Wins First Round of the War, but Now What?

By Alan Boswell / Niono, Mali


Three days after France sent jets screeching over the white skies of West Africa, a trail of over 50 Islamist-packed vehicles stormed south out of the desert, bypassing the Malian military post at the village of Dogofry and churning off the road into the shrubby bush. The group then split; some continued south, where they looped around to assault a Malian army base from the rear. The others took off on foot, around a swamp, to flank the Malians in battle. The Malian soldiers fought, then fled. Oumar Traore, like most villagers of Diabaly, scurried through the lush green fields to hide. For the next four days and nights, planes and helicopter blades whirred above, as automatic bursts fired back. And then: silence. Traore waited for several hours, then ventured out. The bearded men from the desert had left almost as suddenly as they had swooped in, leaving only charred…

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