Islamist rebels were pounded by French aircraft in Mali for the second consecutive day Saturday
January 14, 2013 – Islamist rebels were pounded by French aircraft in Mali for the second consecutive day Saturday, while neighboring states in West Africa raced to deploy troops to prevent groups tied to al-Qaeda from spreading their power.
France, after warning that control in northern Mali by militants posed a European security threat, intervened in dramatic fashion Friday, as Islamist fighters who are heavily armed swept south towards Bamako the capital of Mali.
Mali troops, under cover from attack helicopters and fighter planes from France, routed a convoy of rebels and pushed the Islamists out of Konna a strategic town in central Mali, which the rebels had taken control of on Thursday. One army official said over 100 rebel fighters were killed.
On Friday, a French pilot was killed when his helicopter was shot down by rebels near Mopti.
President Francois Hollande of France stated very clearly that the goal of France in Mali was to support the deployment of West African troops, which the United Nations, the United States and the European Union have all endorsed.
Western countries fear that the Islamists could use the country of Mali as a base to make attacks against the West and increase its influence of militants linked with al-Qaeda that are based in Somalia, Yemen and other parts of North Africa.
A resident in Gao in northern Mali, an Islamist stronghold, reported that dozens of rebels were retreating to the north in trucks Saturday afternoon. The resident said the hospital was inundated with casualties both dead and alive.
In the city of Konna, one shop owner reported viewing scores of Islamist fighters dead, piled in the city streets, along with dozens of bodies of soldiers.
A senior government official announced on Mali television that 11 soldiers from the Malian army were killed during the battle that the government won.