A map of the West African state of Mali illustrating Timbuktu, Bomako and Hombori. Mali has an ancient history of culture and civilization., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
11 January 2013
Last updated at 13:15 ET
France confirms Mali intervention
Islamist militants drove the army out of northern Mali last year
President Francois Hollande says French troops are taking part in operations against Islamists in northern Mali.
French troops "have brought... support to Malian units to fight against terrorist elements", Mr Hollande said.
He said the intervention was in line with international law, and had been agreed with Malian President Dioncounda Traore.
Armed groups, some linked to al-Qaeda, took control of northern Mali in April after a coup in the capital, Bamako.
The militants said this week that they had advanced further into government-controlled territory.
Mr Hollande said French military action had begun on Friday afternoon and would last "as long as necessary".
"Mali is facing an assault by terrorist elements coming from the north whose brutality and fanaticism is know across the world," Mr Hollande said.
He said Mali's existence as a state was under threat, and referred to the need to protect its own population and 6,000 French citizens living there.
Mr Hollande spoke shortly after the Malian army said that French troops, as well as soldiers from Nigeria and Senegal, were already in Mali.
A Malian army official gave no details of their numbers or activities.
The UN had previously approved plans to send some 3,000 African troops to Mali to recapture the north if no political solution could be found, but that intervention was not expected to happen until September.