As AFP reported yesterday, "The French officials believe the Islamists obtained many of their weapons during last year's unrest, when arms were delivered to rebels fighting to overthrow Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi." Those weapons came from the U.S. and its allies.
"Northern Mali Islamic militants seem to press advance on capital as France steps up air strikes," from CBS News, January 14:
BAMAKO, Mali French military forces on Monday widened their bombing campaign against Islamic extremists occupying northern Mali, launching air strikes for the first time in central Mali to combat a new threat as the four-day-old offensive continued to grow.
Early Monday, an intelligence agent confirmed that shots rang out near the Diabaly military camp in what is still nominally government-held territory, and that soon after, jets were heard overhead, followed by explosions. The agent insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
A Malian commander in the nearby town of Niono said the bombardments did not stop the Islamist fighters and that they occupied Alatona, and on Monday, they succeeded in reaching the north-south road which connects Diabaly to Segou, the administrative capital of central Mali.
By sweeping in from the west the al Qaeda-linked insurgents are now only 250 miles from Mali's capital, Bamako. Before France sent its forces in on Friday to stop a rebel advance, the closest known spot the Islamists were to the capital was 420 miles away, though they might have infiltrated closer than that....
Since seizing control of Mali's upper half, the extremists have imposed an austere form of Islam, foreign to the people of Mali, who have long practiced a moderate religion. They have cut off the hands and feet of thieves, in public spectacles that have left outdoor squares awash in blood. Women live with increasingly less freedom, and are required to fully cover themselves. They have been flogged and whipped for offenses ranging from wearing eyeshadow or perfume, to not covering their hands.