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France pushes back Mali rebels with airstrikes

The French intervention in former French colony Mali continued Friday. Airstrikes drove Al Qaeda-linked militants out of Konna, a city that had been captured by the rebels. France entered the conflict at the request of Mali's president.

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Soldiers from a Malian army special unit sit atop pick-ups, following a training exercise in the Barbe military zone, in Mopti, Mali in November. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday, that France, Senegal, and Nigeria have responded to an appeal from Mali's President Dioncounda Traore for help to counter an offensive by al-Qaida-linked militants who control the northern half of the country and are heading south.

Francois Rihouay/AP

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French airstrikes overnight in Mali drove back Islamist rebels from a key city and destroyed a militant command center, the French defense minister said Saturday, as West African nations authorized the immediate deployment of troops to the country.

The al-Qaida-linked militants, who have carved out their own territory in the lawless desert region of northern Mali over the past nine months, recently pressed closer to a major base of the Malian army, dramatically raising the stakes in the battle for the vast West African nation.

"The threat is a terrorist state at the doorstep of France and Europe," said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

 
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