Sunday, January 13, 2013

French Pilot Killed in Mali Helicopter Raid

At CNN, "'Many deaths' as Malians, joined by French, try to beat back Islamist militants":

Bamako, Mali (CNN) -- An effort to halt advancing militant Islamist forces has resulted in "many deaths" in northern Mali, a military spokesman said -- with the fatalities including Malian soldiers, insurgents and a French pilot killed in a helicopter raid.

Mali is being joined by France -- its former colonial ruler, which recently sent troops there -- as it tries to beat back advances by forces linked to al Qaeda. Much action recently has focused in and around the key northern city of Konna, which insurgents took on Thursday only to retreat the following day after a combined air and ground assault.

"There were many deaths on both sides, both rebels and government soldiers," Malian defense ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Diara Kone said Saturday of the fighting in the northern part of the country. The government, in a statement read on state TV, said 11 of its soldiers died and about 60 were wounded in the battle for Konna.

The French pilot died while taking part Friday afternoon in an aerial operation targeting a terrorist group moving on the town of Mopti, near Konna, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The aerial offensive -- which includes strikes by French fighter jets -- continued through Friday night and into Saturday, the minister added.

"Every means was used in fighting the Islamists, including two attack helicopters. They sent the Islamists fleeing," Kone told CNN. "This shows that the Malian army is capable to fight."
And at Telegraph UK, "Britain to send military transport planes to assist Mali operation," and at London's Daily Mail, "Britain to send troops and two planes to Mali to assist French operation against Islamist rebels."

BONUS: At Weasel Zippers, "French Warplanes Pound Islamist Rebels In Mali, Attack Helicopter Shot Down By Rebels…"