France pushes Mali rebels back

Reuters
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Malian soldiers recuperate after being wounded trying to recapture the strategic northern town of Konna.

Fighting between Mali government troops and Islamist militants continues to rage as the two sides fight for control of the embattled country.

On January 10, Islamists drove Malian forces out of Konna, prompting the government to seek help from the French military.

With the help of France, Malian soldiers were able to reclaim the town and deal decisive blows to Islamist troops.

Now they are advancing into northern Mali, towards the al Qaeda-allied militants' stronghold of Gao.

In Niger, Islamist leaders say the militants are foreign forces that do not represent the religious principles of Islam.

Meanwhile, during a regional meeting in Ethiopia, African Union leaders voiced their support for French intervention as a way to restore peace.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CHAIRPERSON OF THE AFRICA UNION COMMISSION, DLAMINI ZUMA, SAYING:

"It is important to complement the ongoing efforts on the ground, by political process aimed at generating the broad possible consensus among the Malian stake holders on the key challenges facing their country. And of course we acknowledge the positive contribution made by France and the international community that have stood with Mali."

France's defense ministry says it has deployed 2,500 soldiers on the ground in Mali --- some 3,700 comprise the entire operation.

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