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French weekly magazines review

The french weeklies continue to dedicate most of their front pages to France's involvement in the war in Mali.

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L'Express wonders if France "can afford it." It notes that, while a number of other European countries are showing support, France is more involved and the war could last for months. Add that to that the fact that France's army will face drastic cuts.

L'Express also points out a lot of France's military equipment is old. Not very reassuring when you realise Mali presents a logistical challenge to the French. The magazine also bemoans that France has failed to use drones: remotely-controlled war planes. L'Express also believe France has failed to implement a decent strategy.

Dossier: War in Mali

Over to Le Nouvel Observateur, the front cover reads "France at war: what we dare not say." Heavy weapons, sophisticated misiles. "For how much longer will we be suprised that Aqmi's jihadists and the Mujao know how to carry out a war?" asks the magazine. (Aqim refers to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, while Mujao is the Al Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.)

A correspondent sent especially to Mali describes what he sees in and around the town of Diabaly. He describes the place as deserted and stinking of death particularly as the bodies of those who had fallen in battle have been put in coffins and left to rot in the sun for close to a week.

The article contains very vivid descriptions of the fighting in the town but also the aftermath. Another article in Le Nouvel Observateur notes that, ten months after crisis began, a country once considered a model of democracy has to rebuild itself completly.

This week, Le Point's front page is rather dramatic: it features a red tinted photograph of three turban clad famous jihadists including Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the man behind last week's hostage taking in Algeria.

It writes that long before operation Serval (the name given to the French involvement in Mali) began, France has for years been carrying out a war of information. High tech surveillance has been going on to help allies, but this is often useless in the desert region, and sercret services have had to rely on more traditional means.

Again the lack of drone use is mentioned. A former secret agent who spent many years travelling in the Sahel by camel says some of the people in charge of Aqmi have married women from important nomadic families, thus creating "unthinkable ties of solidarity".

Such is the case of Belmokhtar, whose path our former agent crossed in 2005. Belmokhtar's marriage means that his whereabouts won't be divulged by Arab populations in the north. He has a respectable position. Paris has to, therefore, rely on information from Tuareg tribes.

Aqim is throught to have made almost 40 million euros since 2003 through hostage taking alone. It is also thought to be earning money from drugs and arms trafficking.

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