Top news: French fighter jets struck targets in the north of Mali on Sunday as France launched a military intervention to halt the advance of Islamist rebels. France has deployed 400 troops to the country, and seven other countries have vowed to aid the effort aimed at combating a well-armed that rebel movement that amid political turmoil has consolidated control of a swath of territory larger than Afghanistan.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the strikes had succeeded in stemming the rebels' advance and promised that France would not get dragged into prolonged military interventions in its former colony.
The rebel movement in Mali's north, which defense officials have said has ties to al-Qaeda, has emerged as a serious challenge to the Malian government, arming itself with weapons from Libya following the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi. French defense officials said over the weekend that the rebels were better armed than expected and that a French helicopter pilot had been killed in the fighting. In a statement, the French defense ministry said that its fighter planes had destroyed "numerous targets in northern Mali near Gao, in particular training camps, infrastructure and logistical depots which served as bases for terrorist groups." U.S. officials said that they are likely to support the French mission by providing surveillance drones and other limited assistance.
Despite pummelling by French forces, Malian militants say that they remain defiant. "Our jihadists are not a bunch of sheep waiting to be slaughtered inside a closed pen," Oumar Ould Hamaha, a rebel commander, told the Associated Press. "Listen closely to me. Our elements are constantly on the move. What they hit is a bunch of cement. France is going to reap the worst consequences possible from this. Now no French person can feel safe anywhere in the world. Every French national is a target."
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