From Elizabeth Pineau and Bate Felix, Reuters: France carried out air strikes against Islamist rebels in Mali on Friday as it began a military intervention intended to halt a drive southward by the militants who control the country’s desert north. . . .
A military operation had not been expected until September due to the difficulties of training Malian troops, funding the African force and deploying during the mid-year rainy season. However, Mali’s government appealed for urgent military aid from France on Thursday after Islamist fighters took Konna. . . .
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed that France had carried out air strikes against the rebels. He would not reveal further details of the intervention – such as whether French troops were on the ground – while it was in progress so as to limit the rebels’ knowledge of the operation.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for "accelerated international engagement" and said the bloc would speed up plans to deploy 200 troops to train Malian forces, initially expected in late February. . . .
Interim President Dioncounda Traore, under pressure for bolder action from Mali’s military, declared a state of emergency on Friday, a presidency official told Reuters. Traore will fly to Paris for talks with Hollande on Wednesday. (photo: French Ministry of Defense)