U.S. adds warplane refueling support to French operation in Mali
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Pentagon announced Saturday it will add fighter jet refueling to the list of U.S. support for France’s military operation against Islamist rebels in Mali.
The refueling, which will allow French warplanes to continue airstrikes on rebel strongholds in northern Mali, was requested by Paris, according to a senior defense official who requested not to be identified.
The official said the tanker refueling support is legal on the basis of France’s notification to the United Nations Security Council that its mission in Mali is being offered at the request of the African country’s government, Washington Post quoted Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory as saying.
The U.S. military has been airlifting French troops and equipment to Mali and providing them intelligence support since Jan. 11. U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo jets already flew 200 troops and 168 tons of equipment from France to the Malian capital Bamako, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Robert Firman said.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said French and Malian forces have turned back the offensive of Islamist rebels by retaking the central city of Gao from rebels.