French to double troops in Mali

By BABA AHMED and RUKMINI CALLIMACHIAssociated Press January 15, 2013 at 7:14 am
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Mali Fighting

Malian soldiers helped by French troops, move a broken helicopter out a hangar to make room for more incoming troops at Bamako's airport Tuesday Jan. 15. 2013. French forces led an all-night aerial bombing campaign Tuesday to wrest control of a small Malian town from armed Islamist extremists who seized the area, including its strategic military camp. A a convoy of 40 to 50 trucks carrying French troops crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast as France prepares for a possible land assault. Several thousand soldiers from the nations neighboring Mali are also expected to begin arriving in coming days. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A spokesperson for the French military operation in Mali confirmed that France is going to double the number of troops deployed in coming days. There are currently 800 soldiers, including elite special forces, stationed in Mali, waiting for the start of a land offensive to take back northern Mali from the al-Qaida-linked extremists occupying it.

The spokesperson, who could not be named in keeping with French military protocol, said the number of troops will double to around 1,500. Every few hours, enormous transport planes are landing at Bamako’s airport, loaded with supplies and more soldiers. Overnight, a regiment of 150 French soldiers drove overland from neighboring Ivory Coast, bringing in a convoy of 40 armored vehicles, including the ERC-90, a tank-like car, mounted with a 90 mm cannon.

RYOT NOTE: Mali is in the midst of a hunger crisis due to chronic drought and food instability and this violence will only make the situation worse. More than 300,000 people have already been displaced. Mercy Corps is on the ground helping families access food and other basic goods. You can support their work by donating today, or by sharing this story.

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