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France admits twice the number of troops in Mali, as African troops arrive

Hundreds of French reinforcements arrived and more than 100 Nigerian and Togolese soldiers arrived in Mali today to join the fight against Islamists in northern Mali.

mali jan 18Enlarge
A soldier stands guard as Nigerian troops arrive at the airport in Bamako on January 17, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of French reinforcements arrived and more than 100 Nigerian and Togolese soldiers arrived in Mali today to join the fight against Islamists in northern Mali.

The deployments — reported by The New York Times and NBC News — came as French warplanes pounded targets for a fourth consecutive day, part of international efforts to help the African nation's government fight an Islamic insurgency.

CNN reported that air strikes hit Diabaly — a town in central Mali, about 250 miles north of Mali's capital, Bamako — prompting men, women and children to flee or find cover, witnesses said.

NBC quoted a woman who fled the town with her three children overnight as saying:

"The Islamists are still in Diabaly. They are very many of them. Every time they hear a plane overhead, they run into homes, traumatizing the people." 

French troops had pinned down Islamist fighters in Diabaly overnight Tuesday but reportedly held back from launching an all-out assault because of the danger to civilians.

The Times cited French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, as saying that French forces in Mali now numbered 1,400 — 600 more than the figure given on Wednesday.

"This morning there are 1,400 French soldiers on Malian soil. There was combat yesterday, on the ground and from the air. There was more overnight and it is continuing at this moment."

Meanwhile, the West African collective ECOWAS has promised to send more than 3,000 soldiers to back Operation Serval, launched Jan. 11.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/130117/france-admits-twice-the-number-troops-mali-african-troops-arrive