French Military Pounds Islamist Targets in Mali

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A radical Muslim group in Africa is vowing to attack France in revenge for air strikes the French military launched against them last Friday.

The Islamists are threatening to take over the North African nation of Mali. On Monday, Malian and French soldiers, backed by heavy French military air support, continued to pound Islamist targets.

Dozens of French fighter planes hit rebel targets in the northern cities of Gao and Kidal.

"We are facing a clear aggression. I have therefore decided that France will respond," French President Francois Hollande said.

France began its military offensive last week to stop Islamist rebels from advancing on Bamako, the capital of Mali. Al-Qaeda linked rebels have had control of northern Mali since April and began advancing south, prompting fears they could gain new territory.

"It's the security in the region, of France, of Europe which is at stake," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Despite the gains, rebels launched counter-attacks, inching closer to the capital. Fighting in the western part of the country has been particularly fierce.

On Monday, Islamists promised to drag France into an Afghanistan-style ground war in Mali. The leader of the rebel group also vowed to strike at the heart of France.

Security has been stepped up across French cities in response.

Meanwhile, French intervention in the conflict has been welcomed by many of those who fled their homes after Islamists took over.

"We look forward to when this situation can be resolved so that we can return to the village to rebuild what has been destroyed," Ahmed Bouya, who has been displaced from Timbuktu, said.

*Originally posted Jan. 14, 2013.

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