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Geopolitics

French-Mali Forces Capture Timbuktu, Fleeing Islamists Burn Ancient Manuscripts

FRANCE 24, FRANCE TV INFO, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE (France), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

PARIS - French forces, supported by the Mali army have captured both the rebel strongholds of Timbuktu and Gao in a fast-moving offensive against Al Qaeda-linked fighters occupying northern Mali.

Battling together to loosen the grip of Islamist fighters in the country’s north, French and Malian troops have taken control of Timbuktu’s airport, before working towards securing the town itself, France 24 reports.

The advancing troops met no resistance from the insurgents who had held the town since last year – but fleeing rebels set fire to the newly-constructed Ahmed Baba Institute containing thousands of priceless manuscripts, Timbuktu’s mayor told Reuters.

The joint operation, led by special forces supported by French aircraft, allowed the troops to regain control over the northern part of the Niger river, known as the "Niger bend," Col. Thierry Burkhard, a French military spokesman in Paris told the Agence France Presse.

On Saturday, French-led troops recaptured the Islamist stronghold of Gao, the most populous city in northern Mali, in a spectacular boost to the fast-moving offensive that began two weeks ago, France 24 reports.

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Geopolitics

How Blocking Sweden's NATO Bid Plays Right Into Erdogan's Election Campaign

Turkey's objections to Swedish membership of NATO may mean that Finland joins first. But as he approaches his highly contested reelection bid at home, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ready to use the issue to his advantage.

How Blocking Sweden's NATO Bid Plays Right Into Erdogan's Election Campaign

January 11, 2023, Ankara (Turkey): Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the International Conference of the Board of Grievances on January 11.

Turkish Presidency / APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — This story has all the key elements of our age: the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the excessive ambitions of an autocrat, the opportunism of a right-wing demagogue, Islamophobia... And at the end, a country, Sweden, whose NATO membership, which should have been only a formality, has been blocked.

Last spring, under the shock of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's Russia, Sweden and Finland, two neutral countries in northern Europe, decided to apply for membership in NATO. For Sweden, this is a major turning point: the kingdom’s neutrality had lasted more than 150 years.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised objections. It demanded that Sweden stop sheltering Kurdish opponents in its country. This has nothing to do with NATO or Ukraine, but everything to do with Erdogan's electoral agenda, as he campaigns for the Turkish presidential elections next May.

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