(BAMAKO, Mali) -- French ground soldiers are now engaging in direct combat with Islamist militants in the North African country of Mali.
With al Qaeda-based rebels threatening to take over the country, France has deployed ground troops to fight them in addition to launching air strikes.
A spokesman for the French operation said that armored vehicles were sent from Mali's capital of Bamako to recapture the town of Diabaly.
Although Mali has not been a French colony since 1960, there are still many nationals living in the African nation.
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said from Paris that French forces were traveling north in Mali to take the fight directly to the Islamists in their own strongholds.
As the U.S. weighs the kind of logistical assistance it can offer the French in Mali, West African defense chiefs meeting in Bamako are discussing what types of troop support West African states can provide the Mali government.
It's believed that as many as 3,000 soldiers could be deployed, but because of the poor economies of certain governments, their presence might be limited to only three months in Mali.
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