France launches air strikes in Mali against Islamist rebels
PARIS/BAMAKO (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.
Western governments, particularly former colonial power France, voiced alarm after the Al-Qaeda-linked rebel alliance captured the central Malian town of Konna on Thursday, a gateway towards the capital Bamako 600km further south.
President Francois Hollande said France would not stand by to watch the rebels push southward. Paris, the leading advocate for foreign intervention in Mali, has repeatedly warned that Islamists' seizure of the country's north in April gave them a base to attack the West.
"We are faced with blatant aggression that is threatening Mali's very existence. France cannot accept this," Mr Hollande said in a New Year speech to diplomats and journalists.