African Troops Join Battle for Mali
11 civilians dead in first days of fighting
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 13, 2013 9:08 AM CST
French Mirage 2000 D aircraft flying to N'Djamena overnight January 11 to 12, after taking off from the French military base of Nancy.   (Richard Nicolas-Nelson)

(Newser) – The first days of the battle against Islamic extremists holding Mali's north have left at least 11 civilians dead, including three children who threw themselves into a river and drowned trying to avoid falling bombs, a presidential spokesman said today as troops from Mali's neighbors are expected to join hundreds of French soldiers in the fight. Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Nigeria agreed yesterday to send as many as 500 soldiers each, a day after France authorized airstrikes, dispatching fighter jets from neighboring Chad and bombing rebel positions north of Mopti, the last Malian-controlled town.

Britain has offered the use of its transport planes in order to help bring in the soldiers, according to a statement by Prime Minister David Cameron's office. The African soldiers will work alongside French special forces, including a contingent that arrived yesterday in Bamako in order to secure the capital against retaliatory attacks by the al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups occupying Mali's northern half. "We will strengthen our operation depending on the situation," says France's defense minister, adding that his country has international support and "the Americans seconded us" with intelligence and logistical support, though he did not elaborate. Hundreds of Malians today left the town of Lere for neighboring Mauritania to escape the violence. Last year's initial fighting prompted hundreds of thousands of Malians to flee the north.

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WarmWeatherGuy
Jan 13, 2013 11:26 AM CST
"...at least 11 civilians dead, including three children who threw themselves into a river and drowned trying to avoid falling bombs..." OK, I can see one kid throwing one or two other kids into the river but the last kid would have had to jump into the river.
Observer
Jan 13, 2013 10:28 AM CST
How many Al Qaeda fighters are actually in Mali? Could there be a less important third world nation? (Chad, Somalia) Good for the French and their allies. Who are they protecting? What is the mindset of the Mali population being pro-militarized Islamists. Or are they fighting the corrupt French colonial holdouts that own everything and have homes in France. Readers here, have no idea what is happening on the ground in Mali. Me neither.
crustyoldaviator
Jan 13, 2013 10:05 AM CST
I look at these photos and can't find a single coward. If you look at the group photos of the Republicans in the US Congress, you'll see plenty of cowards, yet they change their cafeteria menu to read "freedom fries" instead of "French fries," because France could see through the Bush/Cheney bullshit about the "gathering threat" in Iraq and wouldn't join their US invasion. Once again, history has proven that the irresponsible Republicans in Washington were short-sighted and just plain wrong. But hey, Haliburton made a LOT of money off the deal, and what's good for Haliburton is good for Cheney, right? I mean, he did shoot a laywer in the face and showed no remorse for it, he can't be all bad, even if he is Darth Vader personified.