Events in Mali since France's intervention
A chronology of key events in the West African state of Mali, after France intervened militarily in its former colony to take on armed Islamist groups occupying the north:
-- JANUARY, 2013 --
- 10: Islamists capture the government-held central town of Konna and say they will push farther south.
- Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore asks France for help.
- Witnesses say foreign troops and weapons have begun arriving by transport plane at an army base in Sevare, just 70 kilometres (40 miles) south of Konna.
- 11: With French support, Malian government troops launch an offensive against Islamist rebels.
- French President Francois Hollande confirms French troops are actively supporting the offensive.
- 12: French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announces the death of a French helicopter pilot.
- 13: French airstrikes target Islamist bases in the northern regions of Gao and Kidal.
- Four French Rafale fighter jets bomb targets near the town of Gao, which has been controlled by an Al-Qaeda offshoot, destroying rebel training camps and logistical bases, according to Le Drian. More than 60 rebels are killed in Gao and its outskirts, residents say.
- Hollande says the intervention has stopped a southward rebel advance seen as threatening the capital Bamako.
- Algeria has authorised French warplanes to use its airspace for bombing raids on Mali, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says.
- 14: Rebels abandon key northern bases. Residents in the towns of Gao, Douentza and Timbuktu report all Islamists have fled, though a rebel spokesman calls it a "tactical retreat."
- However, Islamists seize the town of Diabaly in government-held territory, 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of the capital. They vow to "strike at the heart of France."
- Ethnic-Tuareg separatists say they are ready to support France by taking on Islamist rebels on the ground.
- 15: France engages for the first time ground troops to retake Diabaly. Hundreds of soldiers from France and Mali head to the town, which witnesses say is bombarded by French fighter planes.
Le Drian says the Malian army has not regained control of Konna, after the Malian army announced on January 12 that they had taken the town.
- Speaking in Dubai, Hollande says the French intervention has three objectives -- "ending terrorists attacks," as well as "securing Bamako where we have thousands of citizens and help Mali to restore its territorial integrity."
Some 2,500 French troops are to be deployed for Operation Serval.
- 16: French troops battle rebels in Diabaly. Le Drian says the western zone where Diabaly lies is home to "the toughest, most fanatical and best-organised groups."
- Islamist fighters claim to have taken 41 foreigners hostage in a retaliatory attack in neighbouring Algeria.
- West African army chiefs met in Bamako to fine tune plans to send African troops to join the offensive.
© 2013 AFP