Islamist fighters in northern Mali have pledged to strike â€œat the heartâ€ of France, after a joint Malian-French offensive â€“ which has entered its fourth day â€“ began pushing back al Qaeda linked rebels controlling the region.
A military offensive to reclaim Maliâ€™s north from Islamist forces entered a fourth day on Monday, as al Qaeda linked-rebels promised to launch attacks on French soil in retaliation to the governmentâ€™s decision to intervene in the unstable West African country.
Malian and French soldiers, backed by heavy French military air support, pushed back rebel fighters from the central town of Konna over the weekend, while a dozen French fighter planes, including four Rafale jets, hit rebel targets in the cities of Goa and Kidal, deeper in the countryâ€™s rebel-held north. Residents in Goa said French air raids had struck bases and destroyed weapons depots.
Nevertheless, Malian soldiers continued to struggle against well-equipped Islamist militants, who on Monday seized control of the small, central town of Diabaly, putting them 350 kilometres (220 miles) from the capital Bamako.
â€œThey took Diabalyâ€¦ after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army, which was not able to hold them off at that moment,â€ French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceâ€™s BFM television.
Also on Monday, Islamists vowed to strike back at France.
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