by Andy Morgan, Jan. 11
The situation along the demarcation line that separates Islamist-held northern Mali from the south of the country is agonizingly confusing. The Malian army claim to have recaptured the strategic town of Douentza, while the Islamist claim the complete opposite. According their spokesperson, the bearded Sanda ould Boumama, the combined forces of AQIM, Ansar ud-Dine and MUJAO have pushed the Malian army back at least as far as the small town of Konna, if not further. Meanwhile France has mobilized some elite troops from a base in Chad and sent them to Sevaré, the town on the main east-west highway that serves as a transport hub for the Mopti region. The idea of Islamists capturing Mopti itself, Mali’s second largest city which is now dangerously close to the frontline, would be an A-grade nightmare not only for Mali but also for France and the international community. France has spent the last few months trying to persuade the US and the UN that need for action in northern Mali is urgent, without a great deal of success. There are also reports of an aerial bombardment of Konna although whether it was carried out by France or by Ukranian mercenaries isn't entirely clear.