On Jan. 16, just days after France announced its military intervention in Mali to reclaim territory seized by Islamist rebels, Italian photojournalist Fabio Bucciarelli arrived in Bamako. For the next two weeks, he followed French troops as they prepared to shell the central town of Diabaly, passing through places such as Niono and Ségou. As French airstrikes drove militants back and ground troops reclaimed town after town, Bucciarelli traced their advance from the country's western front line to the north.
Bucciarelli told Foreign Policy that attempting to capture the action was a challenge. French-led forces imposed a "strong media blackout" through checkpoints and blockades. "We only had the possibility to cover the aftermath," he said. "There is no photo of the real war in Mali."
Here are some of the striking images he was able to capture while following in the footsteps of the French invasion.
Above, a Malian soldier awaits the arrival of the French Army in the town of Niono on Jan. 20.