Paris: Fearing the repercussions after French troops’ attack on militants in Mali and Somalia, President Francois Hollande has ordered to beef up security in public places and transport in France.
The BBC reported that Hollande ordered tight security as Islamist attacks were feared in the country after French forces deployed in Mali participated in the battle against Islamic extremists.
But one French pilot was killed in Mali operations and two French soldiers were “sacrificed” in Somalia.
France scrambled Mirage fighter jets from a base in neighboring Chad, as well as combat helicopters beginning the aerial assault on Friday. They have also sent in hundreds of troops to the front line, as well as to secure the capital. In just 24 hours, French forces succeeded in dispersing the Islamists from Konna, the town the fighters had seized in a bold advance earlier in the week, Le Drian said.
The extremists succeeded in shooting down a French helicopter, the defense minister confirmed. The pilot died of his wounds while he was being evacuated. The Islamists are using arms stolen from ex-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi`s arsenal, as well as the weapons abandoned by Mali`s military when they fled their posts in the face of the rebel advance.
The Islamists have vowed to retaliate against French interests, and they claim to have sleeper cells in all of the capitals of the West African nations who are sending troops. Hollande announced that he had raised France`s domestic terror threat level.
Online in jihadist forums, participants called for fighters to attack French interests in retaliation for the air raids. They discussed possible targets, including the French Embassy in neighboring Niger, one of the countries donating troops, according to a transcript provided by Washington-based SITE Intelligence.
In Washington, a U.S. official confirmed that the country has offered to send drones to Mali. A French official close to the presidency said Hollande spoke with the British prime minister, who offered troop transport aircraft. Neither official could be named because they weren`t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Lt. Col. Diarran Kone, a spokesman for Mali`s defense minister, said on Saturday that he was at the Bamako airport to receive a contingent of French special forces from one of their tactical units. Residents in the town of Sevare, near the line of control, said they had seen planes of white people arriving, whom they assume were French soldiers.
Hundreds of French troops were involved in the operation, code-named "Serval" after a sub-Saharan wildcat, officials in Paris said.
"The situation in Mali is serious," Le Drian said in Paris. "It has rapidly worsened in the last few days ... We had to react before it was too late," he added.
French intelligence services had detected preparations for what they described as a "major offensive" organized and coordinated by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, and their allies against the towns of Mopti and Diabaly. After a large number of vehicles were spotted heading toward the strategic town on Thursday, France sent in its first unit to Sevare, a town adjacent to Mopti, to support the Malian combat forces, Le Drian said.
Then on Friday, Hollande authorized the use of French air power following an appeal from Mali`s president. French pilots targeted a column of jihadist fighters travelling in pickup trucks, who were heading down toward Mopti from Konna. He said that the helicopter raid led to the destruction of several units of fighters and stopped their advance toward the city.
With Agency Inputs