BAMAKO, Mali (January 12, 2013)--French troops and warplanes in Mali have driven Islamist rebels from a key city and destroyed a militant command center, officials said.
France sent forces to the West African nation in response to an appeal from the country's president.
Al-Qaeda-linked militants have seized control of the vast, desert region of northern Mali over the past nine months.
Other nations in the region also are sending troops to support the government of the former French colony.
France's defense minister the militants threaten to create "a terrorist state at the doorstep of France and Europe."
Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Africa, Ansar Dine, has been a shadowy presence for years in the forests and deserts of Mali, a country hobbled by poverty and a relentless cycle of hunger.
Most Malians adhere to a moderate form of Islam.