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As air strikes against the northern Islamists continue the French say they now have 2000 troops on the ground in Mali, and say they may eventually deploy more than the 2500 initially thought needed to restore order.

Togolese troops have become the first of the West African forces to arrive, followed just behind by a Nigerian contingent. Chad says it will send 2000 troops, and use its air force, considered one of Africa’s most effective. Nigeria says its force will eventually top 1200, and there are troop pledges also from Burkina Fasso, Benin, Ghana, Niger, and Senegal.

Although air strikes are now being made more difficult as the Islamists are seeking to hide among the civilian population, and are concealing their vehicles, Mirage fighter-bombers are being kept busy, and have driven the rebels out of Diabali.

The French and Malian armies have combined in Markala, a key town they intend to use as a spingboard for retaking the north, while the Malian army is securing the town of Konna.

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