At the Nour mosque in Gao, Imam Alassane Maiga puts the French intervention in the plainest of terms: ‘‘If they had waited until September, we would have been dead’’ — referring to the initial timetable planned for international troops to start fighting alongside Malian forces.
U.N. discussions about an African force for Mali have been under way for months, alongside efforts for a European Union training mission to help the Malian military. But while the world was waiting for those to come together, the extremists who had been imposing strict Islamic law on northern Mali started moving toward the capital in January. So France struck back, sending troops into help Malian forces push the radical fighters back.
Krista Larson contributed from Gao, Mali.