The wheels of armored Sagaie crush shrubs. The small column of the French army left slowly Airport Sévaré . Few hundred meters and it is the bush. The detachment will not go far. On a rocky promontory, five Malian soldiers around a tent, watching the horizon. Under the command of captain, Sagaie maneuvering, looking for shooting angles to counter a possible but unlikely attack. Must still find positions to defend the airport, unique region, located more than 700 km from Bamako.
Attacking by surprise Konna , 70 km away, the Islamists were probably intended to seize the airport. Mirage does not let them time to put their plan into action. "Sévaré is a strategic bolt. There are, of course, the airport. But it is also an important city for the control of roads leading from East to Bamako, "said Captain Sebastian. The officer arrived in the city on Saturday with a detachment shielded. Almost every day, other people, other vehicles land to build the unit as the operation is " Serval ". According to the newspaper The Ec ho s, France is preparing to send Leclerc tanks.
Slowly, the French strategy in Mali emerges. Go in first, master the south shore of the River Niger, "country useful" and block or infiltration rezzou Islamist attacks aboard 4 × 4 from the North. One of the first goals quickly reached Markala was secure, then under the threat of another raid Mujao , come Diabali, a hundred miles north. Merkala has one of two bridges that allow cross the Niger downstream of Bamako. The other is located in Gao, still in the hands of the Islamists, but more to the east. Large bins, capable of carrying a dozen cars in the immense river, were placed under surveillance. Aircraft patrolling over three river ports Bourem Gourma-Rharous and Massina. Order is given to the tanks to remain moored on the south bank, under penalty of being immediately destroyed. "From that side, it is quiet," said an officer.
To return to the offensive, and bypass the device, Mujao still has some possibilities. "They can go from Timbuktu roads that cross the northern Mauritania, a region poorly monitored, then rush south", slips an expert. Islamists could then join the forest Wagadou where groups probably dependent of Ansar Dine , have been reported. They could also, in the east, try going under Sévaré. "These are rough roads, but it is a possibility that we monitor," explains Sébastien commander.
"To counter these tendencies, Malian troops, backed by French special forces and aviation progress in these two areas, said the commander. We need to share our secure area behind Malian troops. "Progress towards Douentza, lock, could be more difficult than the previous steps. The road crosses the Dogon Plateau , a mountainous area where Islamist groups are hidden. According to a Malian officer, however, it is impossible to know whether these "small parties of a few men" are fighters lost in the stampede or 'groups decided to ambush. "
Then the cities of Gao and Timbuktu are likely targets . "Serious things will begin," said the captain Sebastian. The battles could be more bitter, and especially the French troops and African find a mixed population of which at least has clearly joined the fighting Tuareg. Strategists fear then attacks including IEDs , roadside bombs placed at the edge of the road and able to do serious damage. The presence of specialists in this kind of gear was reported to Timbuktu from Algeria and Libya. Two bottles of gas have been found near Konna. The front will also be much wider. "In the desert, it will open like a funnel. Malian troops can not block all infiltrations, and it may be when we meet again in direct contact with opponents, "analyzes a French colonel.