The French-led international assault on Islamist-held northern Mali is about to get a lot more explosive. With a big assist from the U.S., U.K. and other allies, Paris is deploying heavier vehicles, high-tech artillery pieces and its most sophisticated helicopter gunship, the Tiger.
The reinforcements reflect France’s surprise at discovering that Mali’s rebels possess some dangerous weaponry of their own.
“The defense minister has recognized that the enemy resistance was tougher than initially envisioned,” Joseph Henrotin, a French analyst and military academy instructor, tells Danger Room. When French ground troops counter-attacked towards the battleground town of Konna in central Mali on Jan. 15, they encountered rebels equipped with “technical” trucks. Photos have depicted militants riding in a wide variety of these improvised, gun-armed pickups, long a mainstay of African warfare.