Here is the text of the update added to the previous post regarding the Franco-Mauritanian raid near the Malian-Mauritanian border. It was added as point 5 in the original summary and is reproduced here to make it more readable. The only difference between the text here and in the previous post is its organization. Below the numbered information are maps showing the vicinity of the two raids mentioned — Araouane (the Franco-Mauritanian one) and the area around Tessilit and the Tighaghar Mountains (the Franco-Algerian one).
UPDATE: [Information from 2 and 3 August, 2010.] An Algerian source (separate from the first and close to the military) notes the following:
- The official Algerian position — that Algeria had no part in the raid and plans no counter-terrorist activity outside of its borders — is false. The Algerians were informed in advance. According to this source, the Algerians participated in a second attack for which the “Franco-Mauritanian” one was to serve as a “decoy”.
- The second attack, which was mentioned in Malian newspapers last week and also mentioned in some Algerian papers as a possibility, is said to have been against an AQIM “base” in the Tigharghar Mountains (Menas Associates has a large report on this as well, more detailed though more ambiguous than what this blogger’s source relates; they also quote an Echorouk article reporting that aircraft were used in the first raid and that France denied using any aircraft and an additional report from Xinhua that says the attack used the Tamanrasset center, though this was not the case in the first raid. More interesting is Menas’s “absolute confirmation” that the French chief of staff met with Mohamed Mediene (“Tewfik”) on 20 July. Both the source and Menas mention the Tigharghar position as having been used by the Tuaregs in the past and having been used by AQIM for 12-14 months.).
- This source reports that no Mauritanians participated in the second attack and that it was carried out by Algerian and French forces. (The source calls the Mauritanian attack “the newspaper raid”.) The attack, the source says, used Algerian attack helicopters (the source did not say “helicopters”; rather he declined to identify what kind of aircraft was used or where it originated but said that “Russian machines” were used, which would suggest they were Algerian) from southern Algerian positions (likely from Bechar, Tindouf or Tamanrasset, though the numbers of attack and transport craft in the south is somewhat illusive) brought into Mali with French personnel and support (French craft could also have been used). The Algerians carried out massive troop movements in the Sahara in late June and July (desert sweeping) and it would not be surprising if this second raid was a part of these maneuvers.
- The source says the second raid was also meant to rescue Germaneau but was unsuccessful toward that end. The Algerian source says that the mountains are “hard terrain and some of the intelligence was inaccurate.” The source says the troops used were Algerian and French and that the attack used a Malian airstrip (which the source would not name but Menas identified Tessilit; see this map). The source would not speak to whether Germaneau was actually at the Tigharghar base (which was especially used for smuggling) or if he was killed in the process of the attack or earlier. It is possible that Germaneau had been dead for some time before the raid(s). Menas has a darker (but not wholly convincing) assessment: “There is mounting evidence that there were two operations: a decoy near the Mauritanian border, where six ‘traffickers’ (supposedly AQIM) were killed, and a more serious and politically-sensitive operation run out of Tessalit (and perhaps Tamanrasset) which was an unmitigated disaster. This main operation not only appears not to have located any major AQIM base (probably because they were tipped off by the DRS) but failed to find any trace of Germaneau … It is suggested that one motive for Algeria manipulating France in this way is to make France/Sarkozy appear responsible for his death.” Menas further believes that the Algerians “suckered” the French into the second raid with (presumably) false intelligence (they also believe the helicopters were French though this conflicts with this blogger’s source’s account; the Menas narrative is not totally reasonable in some parts).
- The indignation from the first Algerian source (quoted above in point 1) may be political cover or simply reflects the source’s position within the (less informed) political establishment rather than the military (where the second source comes from). The motivation behind the decoy and the “real” raid might be to deflect attention from its failure, saving face for France and Algeria (especially for the French who, not having rescued their hostage, could still say they killed some of the enemy). Also related to this are the political implications of Algerian soldiers fighting alongside French troops. As Menas notes this would play straight into AQIM and other jihadi propaganda about apostates and crusaders and likely irritate more nationalistic types in Algeria. The source continuously stresses that the Tigharghar base is surrounded by “horrible, impossible terrain” and that this made failure or complications more likely and that the “easy newspaper raid” near the Mauritanian border was meant to “give us cover from this.” Regarding the second possibility, the source says: “that is possible, but the enemy knows we cooperate with France. They know all the governments are against them; it would be better if the French did not present themselves as the first fighters.” The other concern might be related to regional opinion; the “second” raid would have been comparatively large to previous skirmishes and engagements with AQIM and would cause many to ask serious questions. Many Malians are sore with France and Mauritania about the raid as a “violation of our territory,” and already hold deep suspicions about France, Mauritania and Algeria’s intentions. Algeria’s role in a large attack within Malian territory would be problematic from this standpoint; it would be better to have such discontent directed at Mauritania and France.
- From a communications standpoint, the French handled this poorly, with multiple leaks coming out of every pore of the operation. Part of this is simply because there are so few people in the vicinity of where it happened and part of it is because the French and the Mauritanians and Algerians talk a lot. Other political motivations are probably at work, too, especially in the Algerian news reports that mentioned the Tigharghar raid or Algerian participation at all.
The first map is of Mali, showing the distance between Araouane (in the Tombouctou region) and Tessilit/the Tigherghar Mountains in Kidal. Araouane is on the road leading north out of Tombouctou city in the region labeled “Azaouad” (click to enlarge). Tessilit is on the north-western edge of the “Adrar des Ifouras” (Ifoughas) by the south eastern Algerian border. Adrar means “mountains” in practically all Berber languages, including Tamasheq/Tamahak. There are Adrar provinces in Mauritania, Algeria and elsewhere in the Sahara. (Click to enlarge.)
The second map is of Araouane. The down appears to be surrounded by recent dunes (the remains of what were probably date palm groves can be seen to the north-west). The town’s wells can be seen in the center of the town. This is where the Franco-Mauritanian raid is said to have taken place. There is no garrison at Araouane. Local sources say that the town is useful to “anyone” for two reasons: it has diesel fuel and water — the two main ingredients for cruising around in the desert. Activities in the desert are depending on how much fuel and water one can get from where and within what time frame. According to the same locals, the town is thought of a “staging ground” for folks roaming in the region. The town is recently desertified, most houses and its mosque are buried in sand. It was (and by some accounts remains) an important point in regional trade in the recent past — whole caravans stopped there on the way through to and from Taoudenni. (Click to enlarge.)
The third, fourth and fifth maps are satellite images of Tessilit. In the first image, the town and wadi are visible to the north-east. The airstrip mentioned is to the south-east. What may be a military encampment can be seen between the wadi and the airstrip. The second Tessilit image shows the airstrip, the town and the mountains to the east. In the last image, the Tigherghar Mountains can be seen to the south of Tessilit. (Click to enlarge.)