France intervenes to block rebel advance in Mali
By Jeremy Binnie
France has carried out multiple air strikes against the Islamist militants who control northern Mali to prevent them from scuppering the plan for military intervention that the United Nations Security Council approved on 20 December 2012.
The plan involved rebuilding the Malian army and deploying 3,300 West African soldiers to support an operation aimed at defeating the coalition of Islamist groups that had taken control of northern Mali in March 2012. While France and other Western countries planned to offer training and support to the Malian and West African forces involved, Paris stated that it would not be directly involved in combat operations.
However, an Islamist offensive that captured the town of Konna on 9 January forced the French to take action to ensure that the intervention can proceed as planned.
Speaking on 12 January, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France's intelligence services had detected a major, two-pronged offensive by the militant groups Ansar al-Din, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) heading towards Diabali and Mopti, 60 km south of Konna.184 of 473 words
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