NATO backs France in Mali, but says no aid request

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BRUSSELS (AFP) – NATO said Monday it supported French efforts to turn back the terrorist threat in Mali but that the alliance had received no request for assistance and had not discussed the conflict.

“We welcome the efforts of the international community in support of the implementation of the United Nations … resolution 2085 (on Mali),” a NATO spokesman said.

“France has taken swift action to roll back the offensive of the terrorist groups in Mali,” the spokesman said.

“We are hopeful that such efforts will help to restore the rule of law in Mali and … roll back the threat” of groups which threaten the “security and stability of the country, the region and beyond.”

At the same time, NATO stressed this was a national operation, carried out by France, and there had been no request for assistance nor had there been a “discussion within NATO of this crisis.”

“So far, the operation in Mali is a national operation in support of Mali. It was decided by the French government … NATO is not involved in that.”

On Monday, Islamist forces based in northern Mali vowed to avenge France’s fierce military offensive against them after a series of French attacks inflicted heavy casualties.

On Sunday, French Rafale fighter planes struck bases used by Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Gao, the main city in northern Mali, and Kidal.

French warplanes also attacked rebel stockpiles of munitions and fuel further north at Afhabo, 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Kidal, a regional security source said. The area is a stronghold of the group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith).

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