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

(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.

French Mirage 2000 D aircraft flying to N'Djamena overnight January 11 to 12, after taking off from the French military base of Nancy.
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)
A French Mirage 2000 D aircraft refueling while flying to N'Djamena overnight January 11 to 12, after taking off from the French military base of Nancy.
A French Mirage 2000 D aircraft refueling while flying to N'Djamena overnight January 11 to 12, after taking off from the French military base of Nancy.   (Richard Nicolas-Nelson)
France's French Army Chief of Staff Adm. Edouard Guillaud at the end of their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, for a Small Defense council meeting Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013.
France's French Army Chief of Staff Adm. Edouard Guillaud at the end of their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, for a Small Defense council meeting Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013.   (Jacques Brinon)
French fighter pilots walking toward their Mirage 2000 D, at Kossei camp in N'Djamena, Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.
French fighter pilots walking toward their Mirage 2000 D, at Kossei camp in N'Djamena, Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.   (Richard Nicolas-Nelson)
This picture released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French soldiers of the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment boarding to Bamako, the capital from Mali, at the N'Djamena's airport, in Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. The battle to retake Mali's north from the al-Qaida-linked groups controlling it began...
This picture released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French soldiers of the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment boarding to Bamako, the capital from Mali, at the N'Djamena's...   (Richard Nicolas-Nelson)
French soldiers of the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment preparing to board for Bamako, the capital from Mali, at the N'Djamena's airport, in Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.
French soldiers of the 21st Marine Infantry Regiment preparing to board for Bamako, the capital from Mali, at the N'Djamena's airport, in Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.   (Richard Nicolas-Nelson)
French soldiers getting ready before boarding to Bamako, the capital from Mali, at Kossei camp in N'Djamena, Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.
French soldiers getting ready before boarding to Bamako, the capital from Mali, at Kossei camp in N'Djamena, Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.   (Richard Nicolas-Nelson)
A French fighter pilot getting ready to take off with a Mirage 2000 D, at Kossei camp in N'Djamena, Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.
A French fighter pilot getting ready to take off with a Mirage 2000 D, at Kossei camp in N'Djamena, Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.   (Richard Nicolas-Nelson)
French soldiers load missiles on Mirage 2000 D, at Kossei camp in N'Djamena, in Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.
French soldiers load missiles on Mirage 2000 D, at Kossei camp in N'Djamena, in Chad, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/ R.Nicolas-Nelson, Ecpad)
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