European military aircraft with weapons and soldiers on board arrives in Mali
Mali extremist and terrorist groups are advancing further into government-held territories after they captured the key nothern city of Konna on Thursday. Meanwhile Mali's President Dioncounda Traore has sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a similar letter to French President Francois Hollande seeking assistance against the offensive.
According to witnesses cited by news agencies, a military aircraft carrying weapons and foreign soldiers has arrived at an army base in Sevare in central Mali, not far from the captured town of Konna.
One witness at the airport reported seeing weapons and soldiers leaving a C-160 military transport aircraft.
The Malian defense ministry said it would hold a news conference on the situation on Friday.
One unnamed Malian official confirmed the arrival of the military aircraft and said the aircraft arrived from a European country.
On Thursday, al Qaeda-linked rebels drove the Malian army out of the strategic northern town of Konna. It became a major setback to government forces trying to dislodge the Islamists from the northern territory of Mali, which they captured in April 2012.
The UN Security Council held emergency talks on Mali on Thursday amid growing international concerns Islamist forces may use the country as a launch pad to stage attacks. The Council called on U.N. member states "to provide assistance to the Malian Defense and Security Forces in order to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organizations and associated groups."
After the meeting, France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters the groups who captured the city of Konna Thursday are now threatening the city of Mopti, which has 100,000 inhabitants. He also declined to say how his country would respond to Mali President's request, telling reporters a decision would be announced in Paris on Friday.
On December 22, 2012 the UN Security Council authorized an African-led force to support Malian forces in recovering the north but set no timeline for military action. Instead it set out benchmarks to be met before the start of offensive operations.
Mali was plunged into crisis by a March 2012 coup, which allowed Tuareg rebels, who have long felt marginalized by Mali's government, to seize the north. But months later, the rebels were kicked out by Islamist groups allied with al-Qaida, which have imposed strict Shariah law throughout the north.
Source: Voice of Russia, news24.com, Reuters, BBC News - 11 January 2013
Photo: French military preparing a Mirage 2000D fighter plane at the French military base of N'Djamena, Chad. (Photo by armyrecognition.com)