US “Mulling” Drone Strikes in Mali | Bankrupt France invades Mali to grab gold mines

January 17th, 2013

Former RAND head: Americans will not care

(SteveWatson) – A senior US official has said that the Obama administration is “mulling” over drone strikes in the West African country of Mali, in order to support French military activity against so called “Al Qaeda” operatives.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that a senior defense advisor for the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) has been touting the possibility of drone strikes, calling them “the least bad option”.

“U.S. counterterrorism officials appear increasingly open to air strikes against insurgents in northern Mali, according to J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center in Washington.” the report stated.

“Drone strikes or air strikes will not restore Mali’s territorial integrity or defeat the Islamists, but they may be the least bad option,” said Mr. Pham, a senior strategy adviser to the U.S. military’s Africa Command.

The Journal followed up on the report yesterday, noting that US surveillance drones, and other equipment have already been sent to aid the French military.

Commenting in a Bloomberg article on the likelihood that the US could become involved in Mali with drone strikes, Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University in Washington said that the action probably would not be controversial among Americans.

“It’s boots on the ground that generates controversy,” said Hoffman, a former director of the RAND Corporation.

It is no secret that Obama has vastly expanded the US drone war since entering office in 2009. Daily drone strikes are raining down on Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as another African nation, Somalia.

The Pentagon has been weighing military action in former French colony of Mali for some time

In addition to carrying out an air offensive, the French already have close to 1000 troops on the ground in Mali, and have vowed to deploy another 1,700 troops from French military bases across the region. British forces are also assisting the French military ground invasion.

As we have noted, France openly supported so called Jihadist “revolutionaries” in Libya and is now also doing so in Syria, along with Britain and the US, marking out the new socialist government as highly hypocritical.

The Islamist alliance rising up against the government in Mali is composed of fighters belonging to Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group extremely closely allied with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), whom France intervened on behalf of during NATO’s 2011 proxy-invasion of Libya. The French helped to provide weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support the Islamic extremists in the overthrow of Libya’s government.

The same group is now overrunning the government in Syria.

In addition, US Department of Defense officials have acknowledged that the leader of the military coup in Mali received military training in the United States on “several” occasions.

In reality, the operation in Mali is being sold as part of the “war on terror”, when it is once more about securing power for a puppet democracy in a geopolitically sensitive and strategically important region.

Source: Infowars

___________Bankrupt France invades Mali to grab gold mines

Published on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 06:24 | Written by G Keller, J Keaten and L C. Baldo, Posted by Ed | Print | Email | Hits: 1753
Bankrupt France want to help Mali. Help itself to lucrative Mali gold mines which are jointly controlled by French British conglomerate. Mali lies in French sphere of influence so Frogs are in the lead. Mali gold mines only give 20% to Mali and that to a few corrupt francophone leaders while the country starves. French are concerned new Islamist leadership will et better deal with China. Frogs already lost one attack Helo downed by resistance.

 

Mali Aw Bissimila

Mali is Africa’s third leading gold producer after world giants South Africa and Ghana. GDP – per capita (PPP) is $1,200

 

BAMAKO, Mali — Despite a punishing bombardment by French warplanes, insurgents grabbed more territory in Mali on Monday, seizing a strategic military camp that brought them far closer to the government’s seat of power. Declaring France had “opened the gates of hell” with its assault, the rebels threatened retribution.

“France … has fallen into a trap much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia,” said Omar Ould Hamaha, a leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the rebel groups controlling the north, speaking on radio Europe 1.

French fighter jets have been pummeling the insurgents’ desert stronghold in the north since Friday, determined to shatter the Islamist domination of a region many fear could become a launch pad for terrorist attacks on the West and a base for coordination with al-Qaida in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

The Islamist fighters responded with a counter-offensive Monday, overrunning the garrison town of Diabaly, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Segou, the administrative capital of central Mali, said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The French Embassy in Bamako immediately ordered the evacuation of the roughly 60 French nationals in the Segou region, said a French citizen who insisted on anonymity out of fear for her safety.

France expanded its aerial bombing campaign, launching airstrikes for the first time in central Mali to combat the new threat. But the intense assault, including raids by gunship helicopters and Mirage fighter jets, failed to halt the advance of the rebels, who were only 250 miles (400 kilometers) from the capital, Bamako, in the far south.

The rebels “took Diabaly after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army, that couldn’t hold them back,” said Le Drian, the French defense minister.

Mali’s military is in disarray and has let many towns fall with barely a shot fired since the insurgency in the West African nation began almost a year ago. While the al-Qaida-linked extremists control the north, they had been blocked in the narrow central part of the landlocked nation.
In response to the insurgent advances, Mauritania, which lies to the northwest of Mali, put its military on high alert. To the south, the nation of Burkina Faso sent military reinforcements to its border and set up roadblocks. Even Algeria, which had earlier argued against a military intervention, was helping France by opening its air space to French Rafale jets.They appear to have now done a flanking move, opening a second front in the broad southern section of the country, knifing in from the west on government forces.

Many of Mali’s neighbors, who had been pushing for a military intervention to flush out the jihadists, had argued that airstrikes by sophisticated Western aircraft would be no match for the mixture of rebel groups occupying northern Mali.

Leaders of ECOWAS, the regional body representing the 15 nations in western Africa, stressed that the north of Mali is mostly desert, and that it would be easy to pick off the convoys of rebel vehicles from the air since there is almost no ground cover.

Monday’s surprise assault and the downing of a French combat helicopter by rebel fire last week have given many pause. Just hours before Diabaly fell, a commander at the military post in Niono, the town immediately to the south, laughed on the phone, and confidently asserted that the Islamists would never take it.

By afternoon, the commander, who could not be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly, sounded almost desperate. “We feel truly threatened,” he said.

He said the rebels approached Diabaly from the east, infiltrating the rice-growing region of Alatona, which until recently was the site of a large, U.S.-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation project.

French aircraft bombed a rebel convoy 25 miles (40 kilometers)) from Diabaly late Sunday, the commander said. “This morning we woke up and realized that the enemy was still there. They cut off the road to Diabaly. We are truly surprised – astonished,” he said.

It was unclear what happened to the Malian troops based at the military camp in Diabaly. The commander said that he had not been able to reach any of the officers at the base, raising fears they were massacred.

A French squadron of about 150 troops and armored vehicles stationed in neighboring Ivory Coast was headed to Bamako to help with the offensive in Segou, said Col. Thierry Burkhard, a spokesman for the French military in Paris. The troops were joining the 550 French forces already in Mali, said an African diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Al Jazeera says Mali resistance not linked to Al Qaida or terrorism

The French national being evacuated from Segou said the email she received from the French Embassy indicated that small groups of rebel fighters were already heading to Segou, a drive that normally takes two to three hours.

Mali’s north, an area the size of France, was occupied by al-Qaida-linked rebels last April following a coup in the capital. The international community has debated what to do, with most foreign powers backing a U.N. Security Council resolution in December that called for training the Malian armed forces before any military intervention was launched. Diplomats said no intervention could happen before September.

All that changed in a matter of hours last week, when French intelligence services spotted two rebel convoys heading south, one on the mostly east-west axis of Douentza to the garrison towns of Mopti and Sevare, and a second heading from a locality north of Diabaly toward Segou.

If either Segou or Mopti were to fall, many feared the Islamists could advance toward the capital.

French President Francois Hollande authorized the airstrikes, which began Friday, initially concentrated in the north. France has sent in Mirage jets stationed in Chad that can carry 550-pound (250-kilogram) bombs.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that the United States has “a responsibility to go after al-Qaida wherever they are,” including in Mali, adding that the U.S. is already providing intelligence-gathering assistance to the French in their assault on Islamist extremists.

Besides France and the U.S., 11 other nations have pledged troops or logistical support. Britain over the weekend authorized sending several C-17 transport planes to help France bring more troops.

“Not a half hour goes by when we don’t see a French plane either taking off or landing,” said Napo Bah, a hotel worker in Sevare, the central town that is a launch pad for the operation. “It’s been a constant since last week, when they authorized the military operation.”

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HRW report on MALI Child labor in Gold exploitation
Hazardous Work, Mercury Poisoning, and Disease
DECEMBER 6, 2011
Children work in an artisanal gold mine, Kéniéba cercle, Mali. © 2010 International Labour Organization/IPEC
  • Children as young as six are working in toxic conditions in Mali’s artisanal gold mines. This gold makes into the international market with little oversight from companies or the government. HRW’s Juliane Kippenberg reports.

These children literally risk life and limb. They carry loads heavier than their own weight, climb into unstable shafts, and touch and inhale mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth.
Juliane Kippenberg, senior children’s rights researcher

UPDATE: For the report, “A Poisonous Mix: Child Labor, Mercury, and Artisanal Gold Mining in Mali,” Human Rights Watch reprinted a government list that named “Kaloute Hong Kong” as buying gold from Mali’s artisanal mines.  However, Kaloti Jewellery International in Hong Kong has subsequently informed us that it does not buy such gold.

(Bamako)– At least 20,000 children work in Malian artisanal gold mines under extremely harsh and dangerous conditions, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Malian government and international donors should take action to end child labor in artisanal mines, Human Rights Watch said. Artisanal miners rely on low-tech methods and often organize informally.

The 108-page report, “A Poisonous Mix: Child Labor, Mercury, and Artisanal Gold Mining in Mali,” reveals that children as young as six dig mining shafts, work underground, pull up heavy weights of ore, and carry, crush, and pan ore. Many children also work with mercury, a toxic substance, to separate the gold from the ore. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and is particularly harmful to children.

“These children literally risk life and limb”, said Juliane Kippenberg, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “They carry loads heavier than their own weight, climb into unstable shafts, and touch and inhale mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth.”

Of 33 child laborers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, 21 said that they suffered from regular pain in the back, head, neck, arms, or joints. Childrenalso suffer from coughing and respiratory disease. One boy about six years old described the pain he felt when digging shafts with a pickaxe for hours on end. Another boy said that “everything hurts” when he comes home after a day’s work underground.

Most children work alongside their parents to supplement the little income adult miners get from selling gold to local traders. Other children migrate to the mines by themselves, and end up being exploited and abused by relatives or strangers who take their pay. Some girls are sexually abused or engage in sex work to survive. Children come to the mines from other parts of Mali, as well as from Guinea, Burkina Faso, and other neighboring countries.

Mali’s government adopted a National Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labor in June 2011. The plan was an important step, but implementation has been delayed and the government has taken little action on the ground, Human Rights Watch said. There are no regular labor inspections in artisanal mines, and a ban on hazardous child labor, considered a worst form of child labor, has not been enforced. Under both Malian and international law, hazardous labor, which would include working in mines and with mercury, is prohibited for anyone under age 18.

The government has also largely failed to make education accessible and available for child laborers in mines, many of whom never go to school. Schools are often far away, charge fees, and do not encourage children who have migrated from elsewhere to attend. When child laborers do attend school, they often struggle to keep up.

“Mali has strong laws on child labor and on compulsory and free education, but unfortunately, the government has not fully enforced them,” Kippenberg said. “Local officials often benefit from artisanal gold mining and have little interest in addressing child labor.”

The government has done nothing to stop the use of mercury by child laborers and should immediately develop a strategy to address the health effects of mercury on child and adult miners, Human Rights Watch said. Mercury poisoning results in a range of neurological conditions, including tremors, coordination problems, vision impairment, headaches, memory loss, and concentration problems. The toxic effects of mercury are not immediately noticeable, but develop over time. Most artisanal miners are unaware of mercury’s health effects.

Much of the gold from Mali’s artisanal mines is bought by small traders who supply middle men and trading houses in Bamako, the country’s capital. Most of the 12 Malian traders interviewed by Human Rights Watch showed little concern about child labor and health risks from mercury use. One trader said that “our idea is that we just earn money.” The president of the Mali Mining Chamber, a representative body for the mining sector, even denied there was any child labor in artisanal gold mines.

Figures obtained by Human Rights Watch from the Malian Ministry of Mines put the amount of artisanally mined gold exported per year at around four metric tons, worth around US$218 million at November 2011 prices. Most of this gold is exported to Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular.

Human Rights Watch has been able to contact three international companies that have bought gold from Mali’s artisanal mines. Kaloti Jewellery International, based in Dubai, and a Belgian company, Tony Goetz, shared with Human Rights Watch the due diligence procedures they use to make sure the gold they buy comes from legitimate sources. Kaloti stopped buying gold from Mali’s artisanal mines after learning about Human Rights Watch’s findings. Decafin, a Swiss company, said it acts at the end of a supply chain composed of at least four intermediaries and has no contact whatsoever with the producing companies or the Malian government. However, the company said that it questions suppliers about the origin of the gold and work conditions and that it would seek further information from the Mali Mining Chamber.

“If businesses have not done so yet, they need to put in place procedures to ensure their gold has not been mined by children,” Kippenberg said. “They should also work with the government and international agencies to eliminate child labor in the mines. Boycott is not the answer.”

Child labor in artisanal gold mining is common in many countries worldwide, particularly within West Africa’s gold belt, which spans Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal. Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer.

There are currently no simple alternatives to the use of mercury in artisanal gold mining, but its quantities can be greatly reduced, and its effects much better controlled, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). For example, containers called retorts should be used to capture the mercury vapor, and amalgamation in residential areas should be halted. Industrial gold mines rely on more costly and complex technology without mercury, but use cyanide.

Human Rights Watch called upon the government and its international supporters to:

  • Enforce existing labor laws that would end all forms of child labor in artisanal mining;
  • Implement the government’s June 2011 action plan on child labor;
  • Improve access to education, including through the abolition of all school fees, state support for community schools, and a cash transfer program to fund schooling for vulnerable children;
  • Develop a comprehensive health strategy to address the effects of mercury use; and
  • Provide stronger economic support for artisanal gold miners, for example through the creation of cooperatives.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the decision of the United States to cut funding for projects aimed at ending child labor in Mali. International donors should support efforts to eliminate hazardous child labor financially, politically, and with technical expertise, Human Rights Watch said. The International Labor Organization should revive its 2005 “Minors out of Mining” global initiative to eliminate child labor in the industry.

“Gold is glamorous,” Kippenberg said. “Child labor and mercury poisoning are not, and should not need to be a part of the process of gold mining.”

“The Price of Gold: ‘I don’t Care if I die'” on NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” includes extended interviews with the report’s author, Juliane Kippenberg (plays after the commercial).

At least 30,000 people have been displaced by the fighting since the insurgents began moving south last week, said U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

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