The French air force carried out an air strike in Mali on Friday in support of government forces trying to push back Islamist rebels, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
The raid came as France launched a military intervention in the west African state to help the government resist a push south by rebel forces.
Western powers fear the alliance of al-Qaeda-linked militants that seized the northern two-thirds of Mali in April will seek to use the vast desert zone as a launchpad for international attacks.
“French forces brought their support this afternoon to Malian army units to fight against terrorist elements,” French President Francois Hollande told reporters, according to Reuters. “This operation will last as long as is necessary.”
Hollande said United Nations Security Council resolutions meant France was acting in accordance with international laws.
A recent video believed to belong to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrib showed members of the group training in the desert of Azwad, north of Mali. The video posted online constitutes a display of the power by the group and a warning to the anticipated French operations.
The tape was concluded with the leader of the organization, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, warning European and African countries that he had decided to be a part of the war in north Mali.
Special French combat forces arrived on Thursday at the city of Safari, 30 km away from Kuna that saw fierce battles between Mali’s armed forces and the Ansaar al-Din group.
The extremist group had the upper hand in the fighting and managed to control the territory.
Abu Musab vowed his group would fight for as long as it takes, warning that desert would “graveyard” to foreign troops.
In meantime, the U.N. Security Council will be holding an emergency meeting, requested by France, to discuss the latest developments in Mali.
The Council’s members are expected to issue an announcement concerning these developments, especially in regards to the movements of the armed Islamic groups and their battles against the Malian army.