Britain to send aircraft to Mali to assist French fight against rebels

Fears of terrorist reprisals in Europe rise as more than 120 reported dead after French air strikes on extremists

The Observer, By Peter Beaumont, Cass Jones & Kim Willsher, January 12

Paris – Britain announced on Saturday night that it was deploying aircraft to assist French military operations against Islamist rebels in Mali as an escalation in hostilities was claimed to have killed more than 120 people.

David Cameron’s offer to transport foreign troops and equipment involved Britain in a fresh conflict that could provoke terrorist reprisals against European targets. President François Hollande yesterday placed France on high alert as French planes bombarded targets in Mali.

Downing Street said two transport planes would be dispatched, but British troops would not join the French military mission to help recapture the north of Mali from al-Qaida-linked rebels acting against the country’s government.

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  • French planes bomb Gao, as more troops head to Mali in 3rd day of battle for north.

    AP, January 13

    Bamako, Mali — Three residents of the provincial capital of Gao in northern Mali say that French planes have bombed the city, hitting the airport, a building which served as the headquarters of the Islamic police and a militant base.

    Abderahmane Dicko, a teacher, said that he heard the planes in the sky on Sunday between noon and 1 p.m. He says the bombs were dropped on specific locations in the city known to be occupied by the al-Qaida-linked rebels controlling the town.

    France launches multiple air strikes in Mali

    France carried out multiple air strikes in Mali on Sunday as officials warned that the “spectacular acceleration” of al-Qaeda-linked fighters would have seen the capital fall to the rebels last week.

    The Telegraph, By Henry Samuel, Devorah Lauter & Mike Pflanz, January 13

    Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defence minister, said French and Malian forces had made progress towards stopping the rebel advance toward Bamako, the capital of the former French colony.

    “There was a spectacular acceleration of these (jihadi) groups since Thursday. If no one intervened, Bamako would have fallen two or three days later,” he said. “France is at war against terrorism.”

    France launched its first air strikes alongside the Malian army on Friday, in an attempt to push back advancing rebels, described by one Elysée source as “well equipped, well armed and well-trained”.

    Security controls in France were stepped up to reflect the heightened risk of a terrorist attack on French soil as one rebel commander said France had “opened the gates of hell”.

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