Six killed in bomb attack as fighting rages in north Mali
By Baba Ahmed and Angela Charlton, APBAMAKO, Mali -- A suicide car bombing killed six government allies in the northern city of Kidal, as French confirm that they are engaged in heavy fighting in northern Mali.
February 28, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
The suicide bomber exploded his vehicle Tuesday evening at a checkpoint at an entrance to Kidal, said Ag Alghabas Intalla, a leader of the Islamic Movement of Azawad, or MIA, reached by phone in Kidal. He said he counted six dead and others wounded. The MIA group is fighting with the Malian army and French troops against Islamic extremists.
Responsibility for the suicide attack has not been claimed, but it is suspected to be the work of the Islamic extremists of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO.
French troops are involved in “very violent fighting” in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains of northeastern Mali, said France's defense minister Tuesday. Jean-Yves Le Drian said that it's too early to talk about a quick French pullout from Mali, despite the growing cost of the intervention.
The French intervention in Mali has cost more than (euro) 100 million ($133 million) since it started Jan. 11, said Le Drian on France's RTL radio.
“We are now at the heart of the conflict,” in protracted fighting against Islamic extremist rebels in the Ifoghas mountains, Le Drian said.
While some expected the 4,000-strong French force to pull out next month, Le Drian said he couldn't talk about a quick withdrawal while the mountain fighting goes on. A clash in the area killed 23 soldiers from neighboring Chad last week, according to French President Francois Hollande, who expressed condolences to his Chadian counterpart.
Soldiers from Chad and a few other African countries have joined the French-led operation to help Mali's weak military push back the Islamic extremists who had imposed harsh rule on northern Mali and started moving southward toward the capital, Bamako, last month.