Paris: The US military has started airlifting French troops and equipment into Mali to assist their operation against Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said Tuesday. "At the request of the French government, we have begun flying equipment and personnel from France to Mali," an AFRICOM spokesman, Chuck Prichard said.
"We expect the mission to last for the next several days. As of yet we've had two flights that have landed and we anticipate more in the coming days." He said the flights had started on Monday but declined to provide further details, referring queries to the French defence ministry.
"We have worked out a schedule that meets the needs of the French," Prichard said. "Over the next several days there will be several flights." AFRICOM is based in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart. France came to Mali's aid 10 months after it lost over half its territory to Islamists who have imposed brutal sharia law in northern towns, amid rising fears that the vast area could become a new haven for Al-Qaeda.