France committed its forces to a military intervention in Mali to stop the Islamists' advance toward Bamako. Today, they threatened payback.
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Islamists in Mali today threatened to launch attacks "at the heart of France" after the European nation began military operations to free northern Mali from militants in a campaign that the French foreign minister said would take "a matter of weeks."
Abou Dardar, a leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the Islamist groups operating in Mali, told Agence France-Presse today that "France has attacked Islam. We will strike at the heart of France."
When asked where the group would strike, he said "Everywhere. In Bamako [Mali's capital], in Africa, and in Europe." He also said that his group, which has ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), would "make a statement" today on eight French hostages held in the region by Islamists.
The threat comes after a weekend of French airstrikes on Islamist targets in Mali. On Jan. 11, France – which controlled Mali from the late 1800s to 1960 – announced that it had committed its forces to a military intervention to stop the Islamists' southern advance toward Bamako, which Malian troops have been unable to halt. AFP reports that the French have bombed Islamist bases across the country, killing scores of militants and reportedly driving them out of Gao, northern Mali's main city. Reuters reports, however, that the militants have launched a counterattack in the town of Diabaly in central Mali.