FRANCE24, LIBERATION (France)
BAMAKO - On the third day of the French-led “Operation Serval” to drive the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group MUJAO out of northern Mali, air strikes have been carried out Monday on Timbuktu and Gao, two key rebel strongholds.
Four Rafales fighter jets pounded rebel training camps, logistic depots and infrastructure around the city of Gao, reports France 24. French President François Hollande stated that this was just the beginning of a war campaign to be pursued both from the air and on the ground.
As some 550 French soldiers were deployed this weekend in different locations, Hollande's decision was largely supported by other European leaders.
The UN Security Council will meet Monday to assess the situation, as the UK already agreed to help out the French contingent by deploying troops immediately.
Reports say locals welcome the external intervention, though their concern for their own security is real: “The planes are so fast, you can only hear their sound in the sky,” says resident Soumaila Naiga, speaking by telephone with France24 television network. “We are happy, even though it is frightening. Soon we will be delivered.”
This intervention triggered some threats from MUJAO, which declared their will to “strike the heart of France,” reports French newspaper Libération. The French troops will benefit from the support of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, who promised a 3,300 soldier contingent to be sent.