African troops to push back Mali extremists

Updated: 2013-01-14 08:10

(China Daily/Agencies)

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French air raid

Meanwhile, French Mirage fighter jets pounded Mali for a third straight day on Sunday and a top Islamist leader was reported killed as African troops headed to the west African country.

"There were (airstrikes) last night, there are now and there will be today and tomorrow," Le Drian said.

African troops to push back Mali extremists

A picture released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office shows French soldiers of the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment boarding a plane to Bamako, capital of Mali, at the N’Djamena International Airport, in Chad, on Friday. [Photo/Agencies]

"Our intervention is ongoing and we will continue in order to make them (Islamist fighters) retreat and allow Malian and African forces to go forward and re-establish the territorial integrity of the country," Le Drian said. Also on Sunday a security source said a lieutenant of Ansar Dine chief Iyad Ag Ghaly was killed in fighting to recapture the central town of Konna from the rebels.

On Saturday French troops arrived in the capital Bamako, flying in from bases in Cote d'Ivoire and Chad, a Malian officer told AFP. He refused to give details of their numbers or their mission.

Colonel Paul Geze, the French mission's commander, told Mali's ORTM television he hoped their mission would succeed "as quickly as possible, in the best conditions possible".

ORTM said the French contingent would be at full strength by Monday. It has been deployed in the capital to protect the 6,000-strong expatriate community.

Both France and Mali on Saturday hailed the success of their joint operation to push back an advance by the Islamists who control the north of the country.

Since taking power in the north last year, the Islamists have destroyed centuries-old Muslim mausoleums they see as heretical and imposed an extreme form of Islamic law, including floggings, amputations and sometimes executions.



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