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U.S. begins Mali airlift from France

  |   Jan. 22, 2013 at 4:02 PM
STUTTGART, Germany, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. military transport planes are ferrying French troops and supplies from southern France to Mali, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The airlift is expected to continue for several days, The New York Times reported. Tom Saunders, a spokesman for the United States Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said there were two flights Monday and one Tuesday.

French military authorities reported that two important towns were retaken Monday. Defense Minister Jean-Yves Drian called the capture of Diabaly and Douentza "a clear military success for the government in Bamako and for French forces intervening in support of these operations."

Diabaly is 275 miles north and Douentza on the Niger River, 300 miles northeast of Bamako, the Malian capital. Diabaly residents, some of them waving flags from both France and Mali, cheered an armored French convoy that arrived Monday.

France launched Operation Serval after Islamic rebels took control of parts of the country. Britain and the United States have provided air transport but have both said they will not put troops on the ground.

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