Sometime in the next 24 hours we will be switching European Tribune over to a new layout. This will involve a little downtime and no doubt some teething troubles. Do not adjust your set. - Colman

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 03:28:33 PM EST
Mali conflict: France has opened gates of hell, say rebels | World news | The Guardian

Islamist fighters in Mali captured a central town on Monday as a ferocious campaign of air strikes by French warplanes aimed at halting their advance entered its fourth day.

Despite intensive bombardments, the fundamentalist insurgents pushing south towards the capital, Bamako, overran the central town of Diabaly, just 250 miles to the north.

An Islamist militant leader warned the French government its intervention in Mali had opened the "gates of hell".

France's defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said that in a counter-offensive heavily armed rebels "took Diabaly after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army that couldn't hold them back".

France immediately extended its bombardment of the Islamists with air strikes in central Mali.

While officials in Paris declared they were "satisfied" with Operation Serval, as the French military intervention is codenamed, the military was also reporting unexpectedly fierce resistance in the west of the country.

Le Drian said the situation was "evolving favourably", but admitted: "There remains a difficult point to the west where we have to deal with extremely well-armed groups."

The Islamists' advance on Monday came as fighter jets dropped bombs and strafed their camps and convoys.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:02:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Second French soldier dies after Somalia raid, says rebel group | World news |

A second French soldier has died from gunshot wounds after an attempt to rescue a French agent failed at the weekend, according to Somalia's al-Shabaab rebel group.

The al-Qaida-linked militants put up fierce resistance when French forces went into southern Somalia by helicopter under the cover of darkness on Saturday to try to free Denis Allex, held hostage since 2009.

The outcome of the mission was unclear. The French president, François Hollande, said on Saturday the operation had failed despite the "sacrifice" of two soldiers and "no doubt the assassination of our hostage".

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:03:04 PM EST
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US admits role in French mission in Somalia - Americas - Al Jazeera English

US president Barack Obama says American forces assisted in a failed attempt to rescue a French secret agent captured by insurgents in Somalia.

"United States combat aircraft briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed. These aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation," Obama said in his letter to to Congress on Sunday.

Obama said the troops provided limited technical support to French forces leading the operation on Friday.

The president sent the letter to US legislators to fulfil his obligations under the War Powers Resolution, which requires him to inform policy-makers within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action without congressional authorisation.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:03:33 PM EST
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.:Middle East Online::Algeria rides wave of war despite its support for political solution in Mali:.

Algeria has authorised French warplanes to use its airspace for bombing raids on neighbouring Mali, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.

Fabius, who was speaking after French Rafale fighter jets bombed Islamist bases near Gao in northern Mali from their base in France, said Algeria's cooperation was indicative of the extent of international support for the intervention in Mali.

"Algeria has authorised the overflight of its territory, for which I thank them," Fabius said, adding that France was hopeful Algeria would provide further help to the campaign by denying Islamist radicals an escape route from the north of Mali.

"We are working with the Algerians and our discussions are ongoing. What we have in mind is that if African troops move into the north of the country the Algerians will have to close their border."

Algeria had been the most reticent of Mali's neighbours about the prospect of foreign troops being sent in to reclaim control of the north of the country, which the Islamists have occupied for some nine months.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:03:59 PM EST
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BBC News - Mali crisis: Who's who?

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Islamist Ansar Dine were the two major Tuareg groups involved in the takeover of the north of Mali - an area the size of France.

Other small groups have also taken part in the fighting, including the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).

Despite having very different aims, MNLA and Ansar Dine have joined forces to fight together from time to time, including in the capture of Timbuktu - but there are serious tensions between them, which have bubbled over into clashes between the two groups.

The MNLA grouping wants independence for the Tuareg's northern homeland, which it calls Azawad.

Two important figures in the MNLA are the general secretary Bila Ag Cherif and Mohamed Ag Najim, the head of the movement's military wing.

In the ranks of the MNLA are Malian Tuareg who, while in exile in Libya, fought alongside Col Gaddafi's forces as he tried to cling to power.

Once he was toppled, they returned to Mali, well-trained and with plenty of heavy weaponry.

But it is the Islamists of Ansar Dine and Mujao who now control all three of the region's main cities - Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.

Both Ansar Dine, led by a renowned former Tuareg rebel leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, and Mujao have taken part in the rebel sweep south in early 2013.

An Ansar Dine spokesman said they had entered the central town of Konna for "jihad [holy war]".

The group has ties to al-Qaeda's north Africa branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which specialises in taking Westerners hostage for ransom. There are unconfirmed reports of foreign jihadist fighters, possibly including Nigeria's Boko Haram, setting up training camps in rebel-held areas.

It's been reported that Iyad al Ghaly was killed during an air strike.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
has welcomed the French intervention :

Mali: le MNLA pret à "aider" la France - BBC Afrique - Afrique Mali: MNLA ready to help France - BBC Africa - Africa

Les rebelles touareg du Mouvement national pour la libération de l'Azawad sont "prêts à aider" l'armée française à lutter contre les groupes islamistes armés du nord du Mali.

Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad are "ready to help" the French army to fight against armed Islamist groups in northern Mali.
"Nous soutenons absolument l'intervention aérienne française. Bien sûr nous sommes prêts à aider l'armée française", a déclaré un responsable du MNLA, Moussa Ag Assarid. "We absolutely support the intervention French airline. Of course we are ready to help the French army," said an official of the MNLA, Moussa Ag Assarid.
"Nous sommes ceux qui pouvons faire le travail au sol. Notre rôle pourrait être principal" a-t-il assuré, affirmant que le MNLA disposait "des hommes, des armes, et surtout de la volonté d'arriver au bout du terrorisme dans l'Azawad"."We are the ones who can do the ground work. Our main role could be "he said, saying the MNLA had" men, weapons, and especially the desire to reach the end of terrorism in the Azawad. "

Which could turn the tables completely. The MNLA originally "liberated" north Mali from the Bamako government, then was overrun by the various Islamist groups and faded from the scene. But it's an open question whether they actually have a fighting force on the ground, as many have joined Islamist militias and others have left for Mauritania.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 08:16:19 AM EST
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BBC News - Syria conflict causing 'staggering' humanitarian crisis

The Middle East faces a "staggering" humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in Syria, an aid agency says.

With more than 600,000 Syrians having fled the country, the International Rescue Committee is calling on the outside world to step up its response.

The US-based group describes the level of rape and sexual violence occurring in the conflict as "horrific".

In the latest violence, at least 13 people were killed in an air strike on a Damascus suburb, activists said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight children aged between six months and nine years old were among those killed in the attack on the rebel-held town of Muadhamiya. Several people were trapped under the rubble, the UK-based activist group added.

State television blamed "terrorists" for the deaths, saying they had fired a mortar at a civilian building.

The UN estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed in the uprising, which began in March 2011.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:12:10 PM EST
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Rape has become `significant' part of Syrian war, says humanitarian group - The Washington Post

Rape has become a "significant and disturbing feature" of the war in Syria, one that many refugees cite as their leading reason for fleeing the country, according to a report released Monday by a New York-based humanitarian organization.

The victims are primarily women and girls who are attacked in public, at roadblocks or in their homes by "armed men." The report, by the International Rescue Committee, does not specify if those men are primarily from government forces or rebel fighters.

Family members are often forced to watch, according to the report, and gang rape is not uncommon. Meanwhile, it says, there is an "alarming lack" of medical and psychological support for survivors of these brutal attacks.

This sexual violence was "consistently identified by Syrian women, men and community leaders as a primary reason their families fled the country," according to the report, which is based on interviews in November with refugees, officials, aid workers and others in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.

The number of Syrian refugees living in neighboring countries has grown to more than 600,000. Many live in refugee camps, while others pack into rented apartments or squat in schools, public buildings or sheds -- unsafe environments that the report says can lead to sexual assaults, elevated levels of domestic violence and early or forced marriages.

In Syria, sexual assault victims often do not report or publicize what happened for fear of retribution from their assailants or their own families, as the crime carries a painful stigma.

"No one wants to talk about it, because in a conservative society it is shameful to talk about it," said Hiba Alhaji, founder of the Free Syrian Women Organization. "They don't understand how these ladies are not to blame."

Alhaji is based in Turkey, which now has more than 150,000 registered refugees, and has tried to secure funding to start rehabilitation centers for rape victims. So far, she has had no luck.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:12:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Today is the second anniversary of the flight of former Tunisian President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali. But the new Tunisian republic's second birthday is not an especially happy one. A year ago, Tunisia was widely seen as the one Arab transitional country getting things right.  But today, there's much less optimism.  The economy continues to struggle, the constitution and elections remain unresolved, Islamist-secular polarization has intensified, and many complain about the over-reach of the ruling Ennahda party. Despair over Tunisia's fate has become as fashionable now as optimism was last year.   And as for Egypt... well, Egypt.  

How surprised should we really be with these travails, though? As I tried to persuade Nervana Mahmoud over Twitter this weekend, looking more broadly at other non-Arab cases might help.  Comparison only gets you part of the way, of course -- no, theory doesn't let you get away with not knowing your cases inside and out!  But at the least, a longer and wider comparative lens can help to show which parts of a country's political struggles are unique, demanding explanation in purely local terms, and which are common across many similar cases and therefore don't. 

Studying politics long enough usually somewhat lowers expectations about the virtues of democratic politics.  Democracy is usually ugly, messy, frustrating, and alienating -- even fully consolidated ones.  Politicians don't often set aside their self-interest for the greater good. Old elites generally don't just give up and walk away.  Opposition forces struggle for unity.  The media rarely avoids profitable sensationalism in the interest of rational public discourse. Intense competition with high stakes and uncertain results tends to drive mistrust, competition and fear.  Elections don't usually bring out the best in the political class.  Constitutional drafters disappoint. None of that means that democracy isn't worth pursuing -- quite the contrary! -- but a dose of realism can help innoculate against stampedes towards despair. 

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:13:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exclusive: Brazil wants Venezuela election if Chavez dies - sources | Reuters

Brazil is urging Venezuela's government to hold elections as quickly as possible if President Hugo Chavez dies, senior officials told Reuters on Monday, a major intervention by Latin America's regional powerhouse that could help ensure a smoother leadership transition in Caracas.

Brazilian officials have expressed their wishes directly to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, the officials said on condition of anonymity. Chavez has designated Maduro as his preferred successor if he loses his battle with cancer.

"We are explicitly saying that if Chavez dies, we would like to see elections as soon as possible," one official said. "We think that's the best way to ensure a peaceful democratic transition, which is Brazil's main desire."

by Nomad on Mon Jan 14th, 2013 at 06:15:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"Liberty-Driven" Fortress Community Being Planned In Idaho

A group of self-appointed "patriots" are moving forward with an idea for a planned community of several thousand families of "patriotic Americans" in Idaho, a project named The Citadel, envisioned as a "martial endeavor designed to protect Residents in times of peril (natural or man-made)."

(Artists conception of community on TPM if the image link fails.)

I'm missing a few things:

  • Temples (for healing potions and resurrections),
  • The Wizards'/Thieves'/Barbarians' Inns
  • neighbourhoods for elves and dwarves.

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 05:06:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 05:13:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. I carefully constructed the "a" tag with an href, but forgot to put anything between the open and close. Doh.

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 05:30:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did they forget to include a shipyard to build The Ark?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 05:50:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note the Farmers' Market, but the absence of farmes. Are we to suppose there are several square miles of farmland around The Citadel? Do the farmers live in Neighborhoods within the walls, or in their farms? Does the Martial community have to police the surrounding countryside to protect its farmers?

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 06:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. Farmers' Market seems a bit fancy/tofu/latte/metro/coastal/elitist.

(If this were comics curmudgeon I'd make a comment about Pluggers.)

sapere aude

by Number 6 on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 06:26:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note also the "defensive walls" around the "neighborhoods", but the lack of such protection for "power" and "water".
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 06:28:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With all those weapons in a confined space they're also going to need a hospital and a mortuary.

I guess they use slaves for farming like other civilised people do - probably old liberals, at a guess.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 06:44:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now, it's pronounced "moochers".

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 06:57:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do the weapons have to do with it? Weapons don't kill people, people do.

Oh wait. They're going to have people as well....

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 06:58:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a pity they've never heard of artillery.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 07:04:44 AM EST
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Zombies don't use artillery.
by Colman (colman at on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 07:55:06 AM EST
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There aren't enough brains in there to attract them anyway.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 08:15:08 AM EST
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People: the weak point of all social experiments since forever.

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 07:31:24 AM EST
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Elves? Prancing about in the forest? All that singing? Those walls are anti-elve walls.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter
by generic on Tue Jan 15th, 2013 at 07:59:11 AM EST
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