Britain to send aircraft to Mali to assist French fight against rebels

The Guardian reports: Britain announced on Saturday night that it was deploying aircraft to assist French military operations against Islamist rebels in Mali as an escalation in hostilities was claimed to have killed more than 120 people.

David Cameron’s offer to transport foreign troops and equipment involved Britain in a fresh conflict that could provoke terrorist reprisals against European targets. President François Hollande yesterday placed France on high alert as French planes bombarded targets in Mali.

Downing Street said two transport planes would be dispatched, but British troops would not join the French military mission to help recapture the north of Mali from al-Qaida-linked rebels acting against the country’s government.

“The prime minister spoke to President Hollande this evening to discuss the deteriorating situation in Mali and how the UK can support French military assistance provided to the Malian government to contain rebel and extremist groups in the north of the country,” a spokeswoman said. “Both leaders agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security given terrorist activity there.”

Earlier, Hollande warned that two days of air strikes by French war planes were only the opening salvoes in a longer campaign. “We have already held back the progress of our adversaries and inflicted heavy losses on them. But our mission is not over yet,” he said.

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