France continues Mali air strikes and sends troops to Bamako

PARIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - French forces continued air strikes against Islamist rebels in Mali on Saturday and sent troops to protect the capital Bamako under an intervention involving several hundred soldiers, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Le Drian said French army units had attacked a column of rebels heading towards the town of Mopti and said a French pilot was killed during air strikes on Friday in an operation to help the Malian government quash a push south by the rebels.