France's troop presence in Mali

15th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

The French military has already deployed 750 soldiers to back Mali's army in battling Islamist insurgents and their number will progressively increase to 2,500 men, backed by a dozen fighter and supply planes and several dozen armoured vehicles.

GROUND TROOPS

At this stage, a total of 750 French soldiers are deployed in Mali, according to President Francois Hollande. This will progressively be increased to 2,500 men, according to the defence ministry.

On January 10, several dozen French soldiers were sent to secure the airport of Sevare in central Mali, which serves as a support base for French forces.

Around 500 marines have been deployed in the capital Bamako, as well as legionaries usually based at N'Djamena in Chad.

A unit of around 40 armoured vehicles from France's force in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, arrived Monday night in Bamako. These vehicles, notably Sagaie light armoured vehicles, will in a first instance be stationed before being sent into combat against armed Islamists who have occupied the north of Mali for the past 10 months.

Special forces have also been deployed. The defence ministry has not disclosed their number, but the French pilot killed in Mali on January 11 was among them. These elite units are in the front line for this kind of operation.

AIR POWER

The number of fighter planes based at N'Djamena in Chad has been raised to eight: two Mirage F1CRs and six Mirage 2000Ds.

Three C135 supply planes have also been mobilised, as well as transport planes.

Rafale fighter planes, which have been placed on a state of alert, can intervene directly from France, as was the case on Sunday, near the northern city of Gao, when four of them destroyed rebel training camps and logistical bases. Six of them stationed in Abu Dhabi can in particular be deployed.

Helicopter gunships, notably Gazelles, equipped with Hot missiles and 20 mm cannons, have also been deployed in the central region of Konna.

INTELLIGENCE

France boosted its intelligence services in Mali before the start of the operation.

A European observation satellite, Pleiades 1B, which can scan conflict and crisis zones, has been in orbit since early December.


© 2013 AFP

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