(BAMAKO, Mali) — With air strikes having done little to stop the advance of Islamist rebels, France’s military will increasingly engage the fighters on the ground in the North African nation of Mali, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian acknowledged on Thursday.
The rebels, who have ties to al Qaeda, have seized much of Mali in spite of attacks on them by French military jets.
As a result, French ground troops have been boosted from 800 to 1,400, and while there’s fighting already occurring, Le Drian was hesitant to discuss where the battles were taking place in Mali.
Last week, it was reported that a few dozen French special ops forces embedded themselves with Mali government troops in an effort to stop the rebels.
The escalation of troops by France is a sign of how serious the situation has become while Mali officials anxiously await reinforcements from West African nations that have pledged to deploy thousands of soldiers.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN