"We are faced with a blatant aggression that is threatening Mali's very existence Holland was quoted by the France 24 news agency as saying. "I have decided that France will respond, alongside our African partners, to the request from the Malian authorities."
The U.N. Security Council has expressed concern over the "serious deterioration" of the security situation as Islamic and foreign fighters descend on southern Mali. Early last year, extremists groups claimed authority over northern Mali amid a series of political calamities. They're now in control of the city of Konna, about 400 miles north of the capital Bamako.
Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, said in a late Thursday statement the renewed rebel threat was a direct assault on international peace and security.
The U.N. Security Council has authorized the use of military force for Mali, a former French colony. African leaders had proposed a 3,000-member force in the country, though members of the Economic Community of West African States said as recently as December they were "disturbed" by the lack of urgency in addressing a crisis moving close to its second year.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Mali because of "fluid political conditions."