France's effort to help Mali quash a militant rebel uprising in the north continued Monday with Rafale fighter air strikes and U.K. logistical support as Washington mulled a plan to provide logistics and intelligence sharing to the effort.
On Monday U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian broadly outlined a potential U.S. contribution to French-led Operation Serval that would include logistical and intelligence support. The Franco-American talks came a day after London sent two Royal Air Force C-17s from Brize Norton air base to Evreux-Fauville in north-central France to pick up equipment and vehicles on the way to Mali. Although one of the planes was grounded due to an undisclosed technical issue, the other was said to be airborne en route to the region Monday.
On Jan. 13 the French air force deployed four Rafale fighters from Saint-Dizier air base in northeastern France to strike rebel training camps, infrastructure and logistics depots in northern Mali. Accompanied by two C-135F refueling tankers, the fighters were then sent to France's N'Djamena air base in Chad.
Over the weekend Mirage 2000D fighters based at N'Djamena continued strikes on militant groups stationed north of the line between Konna and Lere.
In the capital city of Bamako, French tactical headquarters and ground forces from N'Djamena were reinforced by 200 troops from the 2nd naval regiment and their equipment projected during two rotations of Airbus A310 aircraft and the A340 transport squadron Esterel.
The French intervention began on the afternoon of Jan. 11 with air raids that included Mirage 2000Ds, Mirage F1-CR reconnaissance aircraft and two Gazelle helicopter gunships armed with HOT missiles and 20-mm cannons. During the strike Lt. Damien Boiteux, a pilot with France's 4th special forces helicopter regiment, was killed by light arms fire. He later died of his injuries. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will attend a ceremony in his honor Jan. 15 at Les Invalides in Paris.