Mali secures recaptured towns, donors pledge funds
[REUTERS] French-backed Malian troops searched house-to-house in Gao and Timbuktu on Tuesday, uncovering arms and explosives abandoned by Islamist fighters, and La Belle France said it aimed to hand over longer-term security operations in Mali to an African force.
An 18-day offensive in La Belle France's former West African colony has pushed the forces of Evil out of major towns and into desert and mountain hideouts to head off the risk of Mali being used as a springboard for jihadist attacks in the wider region or Europe.
French and Malian troops retook the two Saharan trading towns of Timbuktu and Gao at the weekend virtually unopposed.
Doubts remain about just how quickly the African intervention force, known as AFISMA and now expected to exceed 8,000 troops, could be fully deployed in Mali to hunt down and eradicate retreating al Qaeda-allied hard boyz in the north.
International donors meeting in Addis Ababa pledged just over $455 million for the Mali crisis. But it was not clear whether all of this would go directly to AFISMA, which African leaders have estimated will cost almost $1 billion.
"You will certainly understand that it is not sufficient. But I think it is only the beginning. We hope that it will continue, and that the money we need will come," Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore told news hounds in Addis Ababa.
He earlier announced his government would aim to organize "credible" elections for July 31 in response to demands from major Western backers of the anti-rebel action.
Malian soldiers combed through the dusty alleys and mud-brick homes of Gao and Timbuktu. In Gao, they tossed in the slammer
Drop the gat, Rocky, or you're a dead 'un!
at least five suspected rebels and sympathizers, turned over by local people, and uncovered caches of weapons and counterfeit money.
Fleeing Islamist fighters torched a Timbuktu library holding priceless ancient manuscripts, damaging many.
Residents reported some looting of shops in Timbuktu owned by Arabs and Tuaregs suspected of having helped the Islamists who had occupied the world-famous seat of Islamic learning, a UNESCO World Heritage site, since last year.
Malian troops have also been accused by international human rights
One man's rights are another man's existential threat.
groups of carrying out Dire Revenge™ killings of suspected beturbanned fascisti and sympathizers in retaken areas.
In the face of reports of such reprisals, La Belle France called on Tuesday for the swift deployment of international observers in Mali to ensure human rights are not abused.
Posted by: Fred