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Mali Islamists flee bases, battered by French airstrikes

Published on Jan 15, 2013 5:57 AM
A French Mirage F1 CR fighter aircraft, coming from N'Djamena (Chad), is seen at the 101 military airbase near Bamako on Jan 14, 2013. France is using air and ground power in a joint offensive with Malian soldiers launched on Jan 11 against hardline Islamist groups controlling northern Mali. -- PHOTO: AFP

BAMAKO (AFP) - Islamist fighters in Mali fled their key bases as they were pounded by a fourth day of French airstrikes on Monday, seizing a small town in the government-held south and vowing revenge attacks on France.

As the French offensive was boosted by offers of Western support and logistical aid, Mali's neighbours readied to deploy troops for an intervention that had been plagued by months of torpor before it was kickstarted by France's swift action.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hailed the "quasi-unanimous" backing from the international community for the offensive, which his Malian counterpart said was aimed at decisively driving out the Islamists.

"We cannot simply push them back, we have to chase them away," Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly told BFMTV after meeting Fabius.

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