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Fighting continues in Mali with outside troops moving in Bamako


08:03, January 18, 2013

BAMAKO, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- France-backed war against rebel forces in Mali continues on Thursday in the northern region of the West African nation as more supporting troops are arriving from the regional bloc.

Malian army moved in the city of Konna on Thursday afternoon, a stronghold of the army in the middle of the country but was overtaken by the rebel forces from the north last week, according to security sources.

According to the same sources, the locals burst into a jubilation seeing the army returned. The information was confirmed by the military authorities through national television (ORTM) around 20:00 hours Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday morning, security sources said that over the night of Wednesday to Thursday, a number of rebel fighters were killed and major equipment was destroyed in an ambush of the army in the area of Konna.

According to a Malian officer, the enemies were distraught when the army launched the attacks.

Konna is a town, about 690 kilometers from capital Bamako, in which the Mali army was attacked by armed rebel groups last week (Tuesday to Wednesday).

With an urgent request by the Malian government, France dispatched military aircraft and army forces to Mali to back the Malian government driving back the rebels.

The French troops have launched daily airstrikes on the rebels in the last six days and its land forces joined the Malian army on Thursday to conduct operations against the armed rebels in the north and west with intense assault.

In the region of Diabaly on Thursday, the Malian troops arrived in Banamba, a town northeast of Bamako, while French forces continued bombardments of nearby Diabaly, a major town the rebels attacked and occupied in a reprisal following the start of government offensives, according to security sources.

As a step of its deep involvement in the Mali battle, France has increased its troops' strength in Mali to 1,400, said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The European nation is expected to increase its troops to 2,500. Meanwhile, regional forces are also moving into Mali to join the UN-mandated intervention operations. A group of Nigerian forces is expected to arrive in Bamako on Thursday. It plans to contribute 900 troops as part of the regional forces to Mali.

As planned, Niger, Senegal and Burkina Faso will send 500 soldiers each, Benin 300 men, Guinea 150 and Ghana 120 soldier to the continental forces.

Chad, which is not an ECOWAS member, has promised 2,000 soldiers and Togo agreed to put 540 soldiers to the operations in Mali.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) plans to mobilize a regional force of 3,300 troops with Nigeria's general Sehy Oumar Abdul Kadry as the commander and his deputy commander will be Yaya Garba from Niger. MISMA's chief of general staff will be colonel Jean Paul Ntab from Senegal.

Between Thursday and Tuesday next, Bakayoko said, three countries will be on the ground to fight the rebels. They include the Malian forces and their French allies as well as the Nigeriens who are just waiting for orders to begin the operation from their side of the border.

The special representative of the Commission President of the ECOWAS, Cheaka Aboudou Toure, said the mandate of MISMA (International Mission for Support to Mali) is to liberate Mali from the hands of the militants.

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