France Increases Security Amid Africa Operations

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 12 2013 5:35 PM

France Increases Security Amid Africa Operations in Mali and Somalia

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Veiled Muslim women and children hold up signs reading "Jihad" and calling for Shari'ah law in Mali as they protest in response to French military action in Mali outside the French embassy in London

Photo by CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

It’s not a good day for the French military. A French hostage and two soldiers were killed during a secret service rescue mission in Somalia just as the French military continued air strikes in Mali to push back Islamist extremists that have been linked with al-Qaida. At least one French helicopter pilot has died. Amid these operations, French President Francois Hollande has ordered an increase in domestic security, saying there’s now an increased risk of a terrorist attack, reports the BBC.

While France worked to push back the Islamist extremists, West African countries agreed to quicken their plans to deploy troops to prevent the group from expanding its power. The decision to get involved began when the extremists, who had seized the northern end of Mali nine months ago, decided to move south, raising fears that Islamists could soon take over the entire country, points out the Associated Press. "The risk is the creation of a terrorist state at the doorstep of Europe and France," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

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Meanwhile, the minister described as a “coincidence” that the Mali operation came as France conducted a helicopter raid in Somalia to free a French hostage. Although France says the hostage was killed by Somali Islamists, al-Shabaab, the group that kidnapped the hostage in 2009, said he was still alive, reports the Wall Street Journal. At least one French commando was killed as part of the rescue mission, although another one remains missing. At least seventeen al-Shabaab fighters were also killed.

All these actions targeting extremists could put in danger the eight French nationals currently being held by Islamists, reports Reuters. A spokesman for a rebel group said there would be consequences “not only for French hostages, but also for all French citizens, wherever they find themselves in the Muslim world.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.