French aircraft bombed Islamist rebels in northern Mali for the second day in a row Saturday, while neighboring West African states started readying troops to be deployed to help prevent al-Qaeda linked groups from expanding their power in the region.
France warned that the problem of northern Mali, which is under control by the militants, posed a threat to the security of Europe. On Friday, in dramatic fashion, the French intervened by bombing strongholds of the rebels, as rebels who were heavily armed raced south towards the Mali’s capital of Bamako.
Under cover of French fighter planes and helicopters, Mali troops routed a group of rebels and forced the Islamist rebels from the town of Konna in central Mali that was a strategic stronghold for the rebels after they took it over on Thursday. An army officer said that more than 100 rebels had been killed.
A French pilot was shot down in his helicopter by rebel forces and died near the town of Mopti.
France’s president Francois Hollande made it very clear that France’s goal in the African country was to support West African troops deployment, which was endorsed by the European Union, the U.S. and the United Nations.
The fear is that Islamists will use Mali as a base for operations to make attacks on the West and increase links with al-Qaeda militants that are now based in North Africa, Yemen and Somalia.
A shop owner in Konna reported that scores of the Islamist rebels had been killed and their bodies were piled in the streets, while there were dozens of dead soldiers as well.