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France strikes Malian insurgents from air

  |   Jan. 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM
PARIS, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- French forces struck Islamist militants in Mali from the air and ground Saturday as France sent troops to protect the capital, Bamako, defense officials said.

French troops, warplanes and drones supported Malian troops Friday in retaking the town of Konna, a settlement only miles from Mopti, the northernmost city controlled by the government, the BBC reported.

"Konna is under our control this evening but we are still conducting mopping-up operations," Lt. Col. Diarra Kone, a Mali military spokesman, said late Friday.

He warned that some rebels might still be in the town.

Kone said Nigerian and Senegalese forces had assisted in the battle, although Nigeria's defense minister had earlier denied any Nigerian troops were involved, CNN reported.

The number of French troops involved was not clear.

French President Francois Hollande announced the intervention Friday, saying al-Qaida groups that control the northern region of Mali threatened to turn the country into a "terrorist" state. He said French forces would be in the country "as long as necessary."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the terrorists' advance in Mali must be stopped. If Mali were to fall into their hands, "the whole of Africa and Europe" would be threatened, he said.

The United Nations Security Council said the "serious deterioration of the situation ... constitutes a direct threat to international peace and security."

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