France keen to buy 12 US Reaper drones: minister

 

France keen to buy 12 US Reaper drones: minister

France wants to buy 12 Reaper drones from the United States, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday, as ministry officials put the cost at 670 million euros ($889 million).

Le Drian said he wanted two Reapers to be deployed in sub-Saharan Africa, where France is battling Islamist militants in Mali.

The 10 others would be deployed in French and European skies.

The deal needs the approval of Congress. Le Drian said that if it did not give a go-ahead, France could buy the drones from Israel.

The Reapers are made by California-based General Atomics.

France: National Liberation Front of Corsica (FNLC) separatists vow to attack France again

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Corsican separatists, who claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks last year, on Tuesday warned of fresh violence as France’s interior minister toured the crime-prone island.

“We will take up arms again so that France recognizes our national rights,” the Corsican National Liberation Front (FNLC) said in a statement, denouncing Paris for supporting a centralized republic.

But after vowing “zero tolerance” for mafia groups, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said: “We will not let ourselves be browbeaten by threats.”

The FNLC, which was set up in 1976, and various other factions intent on self-rule have staged hundreds of attacks in Corsica. They have also been blamed for armed robberies and extortion through so-called revolutionary taxes.

Chad pulls troops out of Mali’s ‘guerrilla’ war

Chad, one of the largest forces fighting in war-torn Mali, has announced it is withdrawing its forces.

President Idriss Deby decided to pull out Chadian troops just three months after the French-led invasion to oust Islamic extremists in Mali began.

“The Chadian army does not have the skills to fight a shadowy, guerrilla-style war that is taking place in northern Mali,” Deby said in a joint interview to France’s Le Monde newspaper, TV5 Monde and RFI radio.

“Our soldiers will return to Chad. They have accomplished their mission. We have already withdrawn a mechanised battalion,” he added.

Chad has suffered the worst casualties of any nation involved in the war. Three soldiers from Chad were killed in a suicide attack in Mali on Friday. In all, about 30 Chadian troops have died in the conflict in the former French colony.

Deby told French media that Chad has already begun removing the 2,000 soldiers active in Mali and that they would return progressively.

Chadian troops are specially trained in desert combat and have been instrumental in helping French troops oust elements of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the mountanous north Kidal region.

According to GlobalPost senior correspondent in Africa, Tristan McConnell, it wasn’t so long ago that “Chad’s soldiers were being talked of as being exactly the kind of battle-hardened desert warriors that were needed to deal Mali’s jihadists a death blow.”

“Now it turns out they’re nothing of the sort,” McConnell said from Nairobi, adding:

President Deby himself says his troops are not up the job of fighting the “shadowy, guerrilla-style war” in Mali’s inhospitable north. Which begs the question, who is?

France has begun its drawdown of troops and while it hopes to maintain a force of 1,000 in its former colony, the withdrawal of Chad’s soldiers will make it that much harder to secure the considerable military gains against the Al Qaeda-linked militants.

Mali’s army is still far from fit-for-purpose and the regional African force mandate to deploy to Mali is in its infancy. Certainly the West African troops that will make up the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) will be no better able to deal with the jihadists than Chad.

In the longer-run the UN has proposed an 11,000 strong peacekeeping force but, for now, it remains theoretical with no agreed timeline for deployment.