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U.S. ramps up support for Malian mission

April 29, 2013 at 9:38 AM

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. military has ramped up logistical support for French combat forces fighting al-Qaida-backed insurgents in Mali, the U.S. Defense Department said.

The U.S. government in February offered $50 million to the military in Chad to help support French operations in Mali. Another $6.6 million from the U.S. State Department would support eventual elections in Mali.

The Defense Department said U.S. refueling aircraft from Spain delivered more than 7 million pounds of fuel to French air forces in Mali. That's more than twice the amount in March, Military.com reports.

The Malian government in January called in support from former colonial power France to help fight al-Qaida-backed militants who seized territory following a 2012 coup. The Military.com report adds the Defense Department and CIA have set up a base in Niger to fly drones over northern Mali to track al-Qaida militants in the region.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council authorized a peacekeeping mission for Mali, though some French forces would remain on the ground.

Arnaud Guillois, a spokesman for the French Embassy in Washington, said French operations would transition into a stabilization force.

"We are entering a new phase in Mali," he said.

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