“France has attacked islam. We will strike at the heart of France. In the name of Allah, we will strike at the heart of France.” Abou Dardar, a leader of the islamist group Mujao (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) told French news agency AFP.
Asked where the they would strike , Abou Dardar said “Everywhere. In Bamako, in Africa and in Europe.”
Abou Dardar also said that later today his group would issue a statement concerning the hostages currently held in captivity in the Sahel region. He insisted “As from today all mujahedeen are together.”
Four employees from the French nuclear company Areva and its sub-contractor Satom were kidnapped in Niger and have been held in captivity since 16 September, by the Aqim group (Al Qaeda in the Maghreb). Since November 2011, two French citizens have been held in northern Mali and a seventh person was captured on 20 November in the west of Mali, by the Mujao.
Abou Dardar refused to give details of casualties following the French raids by helicopter and fighter planes targeting armed islamist positions.
Residents of Gao, the main city in northern Mali, say about 60 jihadists were killed in the town during raids led by Rafale helicopters and the French army
France is continuing its bombing raids in northern Mali, with Tiger helicopter re inforcements due to arrive today.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius said the operation should be over within “weeks”.
Media reports in France say that about 500 troops will be sent to Bamako, with the primary aim of protecting the 6000 strong expatriate community.
French authorities say their offensive has already blocked the advance of Islamist forces southwards towards the capital, Bamako,
French warplanes attacked rebel stockpiles of munitions and fuel in Afhabo, fifty miles north of Kidal, according to a regional security source. The area is a stronghold of the islamist Ansar Dine group.
A statement from the humanitarian organisation Medecins sans Frontières said a base at Lere, near the border with Mauritania, was also hit.
Meanwhile a West African intervention force is preparing to intervene, with participation from Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
The French intervention is backed by the European Union and the United States and Britain is providing transport planes.