President Francois Hollande has committed troops of the republic to help push back the tide of Islamic militant groups from reaching the capitol of the African nation of Mali, Rebels have controlled the northern province of the country for the last year, which includes the historic city of Timbuktu.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the government of the United Kingdom, supports Frances decision to intervene. President Hollande has said “The Operation will last as long as is necessary.”
Sources say that Western soldiers arrived as early as Thursday night, being reinforced by at least a dozen war planes, and army reinforcements Friday. Helacopters have been bombarding rebel positions throughout the night as Rebel forces captured the city of Konna, advancing closer to the capitol.
The UN Security Council has also called for a ‘swift deployment’ of foreign troops to Mali. It has approved plans to send some 3,000 African troops to recapture the country’s north.
Nigeria and Senegal are also providing assistance to Malian government forces.
Until now, France and other EU nations have limited their plans for assistance, offering only training and logistics to support Mali’s army.
Meanwhile, France’s Foreign Ministry has issued a travel alert for Mali, advising its residents to leave the country.
Ansar Dine and Mujao have controlled most of northern Mali since last April. They formed an alliance with Tuareg rebels following a military coup in March.
However, their alliance quickly collapsed, with the Islamists capturing the area’s urban centers and marginalizing the Tuareg rebels.
The Islamists have been accused of war crimes and attempting to impose strict Sharia law throughout the region, harboring fears that the area could soon become a hub for al-Qaeda linked militants.
The rebels are currently threatening the take over the city of Mopti, which would leave the capital Bamako more vulnerable.