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Hollande begins Mali defense

January 11, 2013

France has begun an intervention in Mali to help stem a push by Islamist rebels. The president of Mali has declared a state of emergency.

France's President Francois Hollande delivers a statement on the situation in Mali at the Elysee Palace (Photo: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)
Image: Reuters

Malian soldiers launched their own counteroffensive against militants to wrest a town back from their control on Friday.

"French forces brought their support this afternoon to Malian army units to fight against terrorist elements," Hollande told reporters. "This operation will last as long as is necessary."

French President Francois Hollande said UN Security Council resolutions provide for the intervention. Earlier Friday, he had said that France would stop any further southward drive by Islamist rebels.

France announces military intervention in Mali

Malian President Doincounda Traore declared a 10-day state of emergency on national television, asking mining companies and nongovernmental organizations to provide pickups and other trucks to the military.

Rebel groups control much of the north of Mali, and had begun moving further south. Two groups with alleged ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine and MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa), announced on Thursday that rebel fighters had taken control of the strategic town of Konna, which Malian soldiers are now trying to get back.

UN diplomats said that rebels subsequently began moving towards the regional capital, Mopti, the gateway to Mali's south. The reports prompted an emergency Security Council meeting in New York Thursday at France's request.

Mali's rebels made major gains amid a coup last March in the capital, Bamako. The MNLA, Tuareg rebels seeking independence for a northern region they call Azawad, were at one point considered the dominant rebel force, but their ethnic uprising was hijacked by the Islamist Ansar Dine and MUJAO.

mkg/dr (AP, Reuters, dpa)