France Bombs Mali Rebels, African States Ready Troops
French aircraft pounded Islamist rebels in Mali for a second day on Saturday and neighboring West African states sped up their plans to deploy troops in an international campaign to prevent groups linked to al Qaeda expanding their power base.
France, warning that the control of northern Mali by the militants posed a security threat to Europe, intervened dramatically on Friday as heavily armed Islamist fighters swept southwards towards Mali’s capital Bamako.
Under cover from French fighter planes and attack helicopters, Malian troops routed a rebel convoy and drove the Islamists out of the strategic central town of Konna, which they had seized on Thursday. A senior army officer in the capital Bamako said more than 100 rebel fighters had been killed.
A French pilot died on Friday when rebels shot down his helicopter near the town of Mopti. Hours after opening one front against al Qaeda-linked Islamists, France mounted a commando raid to try to rescue a French hostage held by al Shabaab militants in Somalia, also allied to al Qaeda, but failed to prevent the hostage being killed.