Laurent Fabius confirmed that the French military planes had already carried out several airstrikes against the rebels, who control the north of the country.© AFP 2013/ Joel Saget
PARIS, January 12 (RIA Novosti) – French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has confirmed that a French military contingent arrived in Mali to help the government troops stop the advance of Islamist militants to the country’s south.
“The advance of the terrorists must be stopped, otherwise all of Mali will fall into their hands, presenting a threat to all of Africa and Europe,” Fabius said in a live television broadcast on Friday.
The minister also confirmed that the French military planes had already carried out several airstrikes against the rebels, who control the north of the country.
Mali's government appealed for urgent military aid from France on Thursday after Islamist fighters captured Konna, a town in central Mali, which is considered a gateway to the capital Bamako.
French President Francois Hollande said earlier in the day that his country was acting in accordance with international laws and UN resolutions.
Last month the UN Security Council unanimously voted to give the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) an initial one-year mandate tasking the 3,300-troop force to help recover the north of the country from "terrorist, extremist and armed groups.”
The 15-member council called on Friday to speed up the deployment of AFISMA contingent to Mali as the situation in the country deteriorated drastically in the past two days.
The EU countries and other UN member states have been tasked with rebuilding and training of Mali’s security forces and army for a joint military operation with AFISMA.
However, an international military operation had not been expected to begin before September 2013.
Mali’s north became controlled by Islamist militants, who have imposed strict Sharia law, following a military coup in March. A total of 500,000 Malians have been driven from their homes, 270,000 of them to neighboring countries.
The situation in the country was further complicated by events in neighboring Libya, where the ruling Gaddafi regime fell in 2011. The return to Mali of the Tuareg armed fighters, the MNLA, which had been used as protection by the late Libyan leader, led to a separatist war and formation in April of the unrecognized separatist state of Azawad, occupying a third of Mali's territory.
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