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France Launches Third Day Of Airstrikes In Mali

Danny Lee |
January 13, 2013 | 9:04 a.m. PST

Executive Producer

France continued its campaign to fight back rebels in Mali on Sunday (SKopp/Wikimedia Commons)
France continued its campaign to fight back rebels in Mali on Sunday (SKopp/Wikimedia Commons)
French fighter jets continued their bombing campaign against rebels in Mali for a third straight day on Sunday, as they await the arrival of a West African force to push back al-Qaeda-linked insurgents from the country's north, Reuters reported.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France's intervention on Friday was aimed at helping the Malian government stop heavily-armed fighters from capturing the capital of Bamako. Some western countries are concerned Islamists could use Mali as a base to launch attacks on the West, forming alliances with Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa. 

SEE ALSO: Malian Extremists Continue Demolition Of Heritage Sites

Le Drian said France deployed an additional 80 soldiers to Mali on Sunday to bring the total to 550 soldiers based in Bamako and the town of Mopti, a major base for the Malian military about 300 miles north. The French official added that if Mopti were to fall to the insurgents, the potential outcome could be "a terrorist state at the doorstep of France and Europe," according to USA Today.

Meanwhile, nations in West African have decided to deploy troops to Mali, fast-forwarding a military operation that was not slated to begin until September. The decision to intervene came after the rebel fighters, who took over the northern half of Mali nine months ago, pushed further south within 30 miles of Mopti.

Islamist rebels acknowledged that attacks from the country's military and French troops have inflicted heavy losses on their side, according to CNN. 

SEE ALSO: Coup May Cause Setback To Mali's Democracy

"This is a holy war. The deaths are normal," said Sanda Ould Boumama, a spokesman for the al-Qaeda-linked rebel group Ansar Dine. "Our fighters are prepared to die for our cause."

Boumama accused the French military of attacking Malians, calling them "the real terrorists." But a Malian military spokesman said the raids targeted rebel strongholds and not civilians.

"Every means was used in fighting the Islamists, including two attack helicopters. They sent the Islamists fleeing," Malian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Diarran Kone said. The spokesman said Malian soldiers have died in the conflict, in addition to a French pilot who was killed in a helicopter raid. 

SEE ALSO: Mali's Prime Minister Arrested

Mali, which was a French colony until 1960, held its first democratic elections in 1992. The country had been stable until last March when a group of soldiers toppled the government, hampering the nation's economic growth and social stability. About 6,000 French citizens live in the West African nation.


Read more Neon Tommy coverage of Mali here.

Reach Executive Producer Danny Lee here; follow him here.



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