Laura Smith-Spark and Vlad Duthiers
January 15, 2013

The Islamist rebels fighting to overthrow Mali’s government are “determined, well-equipped and well-trained” and still hold a key town in the central part of that African country, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tuesday.

French troops and warplanes joined the battle last week on the side of Malian government forces, and Le Drian said the intervention stopped the Islamists from overrunning Bamako, the capital. The Islamists, who have seized much of northern Mali, had hoped to deliver a “definitive blow” to the government by capturing the city of Mopti, he told reporters in Paris.

“We prevented it,” he said. But the push has not yet driven them from the town of Konna, the scene of a fierce battle last week that weakened the Malian army, Le Drian said.

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