Britain helps France in Mali conflict

UK sends aircraft to support military campaign against Islamist rebels

French military forces intervened in two African countries simultaneously yesterday with, at best, muddled results. A daring but botched helicopter raid by special forces early yesterday failed to free a French intelligence agent held in Somalia since 2009. The agent is believed to have been killed by his captors. At least one French soldier died and another is missing.

A simultaneous French intervention to check an advance by Islamist rebels in Mali appears to have had more success.

A French helicopter pilot was killed in an attack on two rebel columns threatening the towns of Mopti and Sévaré in central Mali. Paris said that several rebel units had been destroyed and their advance checked. Downing Street said last night it would assist by providing two military transport planes in Mali, although no personnel would be dispatched in a combat role.

Although Paris officially denied any link between the two actions 5,000 miles apart, the Somalia raid is believed to have been prompted by fears that the Malian intervention could endanger the lives of nine French hostages held across northern and eastern Africa.

The special forces raid on southern Somalia early yesterday failed to take al-Shabaab Islamist militants by surprise. French soldiers arrived under cover of darkness by helicopter from warships in the Indian Ocean and fought a bloody battle with rebels at a camp near Bulomarer.

The French Defence Ministry said that at least 17 rebels died. Paris said that one of its own soldiers had been killed and another was missing.

The hostage they were attempting to free, known by the pseudonym Denis Allex, was a French intelligence agent captured in Mogadishu in July 2009. He was "almost certainly killed by his captors", according to the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves le Drian.

Al-Shabaab, part of the al-Qa'ida network, said that the French captive was not held in the camp that was attacked. In a statement, the Islamist group said that he was still alive and would be "judged in the next two days". It said that several French soldiers had been killed and that one wounded soldier had been captured. It threatened "bitter consequences" for France.

If it is confirmed that a new French hostage has been left in al-Shabaab's hands, the raid is likely to go down as a defeat or even a calamity. Apart from Mr Allex, there are eight other French hostages in northern Africa, six of them held by groups allied to al-Qa'ida in Mali and other parts of the Sahel region.

The French intervention in Mali mostly involved airborne firepower with some ground troops alongside Malian forces. The Defence Ministry in Paris reported yesterday that a Gazelle helicopter pilot had died in hospital of wounds received during the fighting. He was named as Damien Boiteux of the 4th helicopter combat regiment.

The Malian army said that its forces, helped by troops from France, Nigeria and Senegal, had blunted the rebel advance and were mopping up resistance Konna, an important town in the centre of the country. Some confusion surrounds the identity of the supporting troops, however. The Senegalese government said yesterday that it had no troops in Mali. The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said that, at this stage, only French supporting forces were present.

"We are doing sweeps of [Konna] to find any hidden Islamist extremist elements," said Lieutenant-Colonel Diarran Kone, spokesman for the Malian armed forces. "We do not yet control the city, and we remain vigilant."

France, which claims to have legal cover from previous UN resolutions, intervened in the civil war in its former colony on Friday afternoon.

Paris has been trying to gather international support for a broader intervention later this year. It was asked to act immediately by the Malian government after the rebels, who control the deserts in the north, threatened to invade the more populous centre and south of the country last week.

President François Hollande said last night that security would be stepped up around public buildings and transport in France to protect against a possible attack. A loose coalition of Islamist groups has taken control of the open spaces of northern Mali in the past nine months. The more extreme groups have imposed an uncompromising interpretation of Islamic law, carrying out amputations in public squares and flogging women who do not cover their faces.

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary