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article imageIslamic extremists continue to 'move freely' in Mali

By Larry Clifton     Mar 14, 2013 in Politics
The French military invasion of Mali designed to halt the movement of Islamic extremists in that country has not succeeded, according to U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley.
McCulley said Thursday that “Islamic extremists continue to move freely between Nigeria and northern Mali, despite the ongoing French military operation there against them.”
The U.S. ambassador said there have been reports "for years" about fighters from the radical Islamic extremist network Boko Haram traveling to Mali to receive training there, while speaking to journalists on a telephone conference call.
Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group credited with launching numerous assaults on Nigeria's unstable government, is said to have ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali. The Boko Haram terrorist group is involved in training and arming insurgents in Mali.
President Barack Obama announced plans in February to establish a U.S. military base in neighboring Niger to stage drone flights across the Sahel region that might also be used to monitor extremist groups in Mali. Armed U.S. troops have been deployed to build the drone base.
In Mali, France has become bogged down in fighting and will reportedly keep its 4.000 combat troops there until at least July and possibly longer.
While France has called for a United Nations force of African troops to keep the peace in Mali after its troops are withdrawn, renewed fighting has dampened hopes of a timely French pull out.
Meanwhile, Canada has agreed to indefinitely extend the loan of a Canadian C-17 Globemaster aircraft that has been transporting French troops and military equipment into the West African nation since early January. The plane had been set to return to Canada on Friday.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper played down odds that he would commit combat troops to the region any time soon by reiterating his government is “not looking to have a combat military mission there,” and that while Canada will provide foreign aid, “our long-term engagements are still the subject of discussions.”
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault appeared with Harper Thursday on Parliament Hill, sounding appreciative to the conservative leader while being sure to appease leadership in Quebec in the same breath.
The French prime minister said his country is “very lucky” to have a “special relationship with Quebec, and it’s also wonderful for France to have such a close relationship with Canada.”
“These are two privileged relationships, and they are assets for France,” he said.
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