(CNN) - The U.N. Security Council signed off Thursday on a 12,600-member peacekeeping force in Mali that will be authorized "to use all necessary means" to protect civilians and cultural artifacts. "We know it's going to be a fairly volatile environment," Herve Ladsous, the U.N. undersecretary for peacekeeping operations, said.
The resolution was proposed by France, which deployed about 4,000 troops to Mali in January to drive out Islamist militants who attempted to take control of the country.
About 70,000 refugees who fled violence in Mali are living in "appalling" conditions in a camp in the middle of the Mauritanian desert, Doctors Without Borders said Friday.
The situation has only got worse in Mbera camp since French forces entered Mali in January to help local forces take on Islamist militants, the humanitarian group said.
About 15,000 more refugees have flooded into the camp since the fighting, and conditions are so bad there that many who were healthy became ill or malnourished after they arrived.FULL STORY
A French hostage held in Mali has been executed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Mauritania's ANI news agency reports.
The agency attributed the information to an AQIM spokesman.
Six other French hostages are still being held in Mali.
French and allied forces, including Malian and Chadian troops, have made significant inroads in recent weeks combating Islamist extremist fighters.
Islamist extremists carved out a large haven in northern Mali last year, taking advantage of a chaotic situation after a military coup by the separatist party MNLA. The militants banned music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television. They also destroyed historic tombs and shrines.
French involvement in the conflict began on January 11, the day after militants said they had seized the city of Konna, east of Diabaly in central Mali, and were poised to advance south toward Bamako, the capital.FULL STORY
One of al Qaeda's most influential figures in North Africa has been killed by French and Chadian forces, a U.S. official saidFriday.
French military sources had earlier said that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, a deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed in an airstrike in Mali late last month.
Abou Zeid was one of the group's most ruthless commanders, having seized at least a dozen foreigners for ransom. At least two have been killed; several French citizens remain captive.FULL STORY
Ireland plans to send up to eight troops with UK service members to train forces in Mali – the first time the republic will have made a joint deployment with the UK since Ireland broke away last century, Ireland's defense ministry said.
“I believe that the provision of a joint UK/Ireland contingent is another step in the normalization of relations between” the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, Ireland Defense Minister Alan Shatter said Wednesday.
France expects to begin pulling its troops out of Mali in March, the French foreign minister told the Metro newspaper for a story published today.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said troops will continue operations in northern Mali, where he said "some terrorist havens remain."
At Mali's request, France launched an offensive last month against militants in its former colony. The ground and air campaign has sent Islamist fighters who had seized the northern region fleeing into the vast desert.FULL STORY
A force of 1800 Chadian soldiers has entered the northern Malian city of Kidal in an effort to secure it from Islamist rebels, the French Defense Ministry said in a statement today.
French forces had previously taken control of the airport in Kidal. France has nearly 4,000 troops in Mali.
(CNN) - French President Francois Hollande arrived in Mali on Saturday, where his nation's troops are battling Islamist militants alongside African forces.
France is leading an offensive against militants it its former colony. The three-week ground and air campaign has sent militants who had seized the northern region fleeing into the vast desert.
Hollande landed in Sevare accompanied by his defense and foreign ministers, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported.
From there, he joined Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore for a visit to the fabled city of Timbuktu. French-led forces liberated the historical city this week after a yearlong grip by Islamist militants.FULL STORY
In the latest blow to militants, the French military says it has seized the airport in Kidal, the last major town under rebel control in northern Mali.
If the forces secure the town, it will be the last major city in their sweep north to flush out Islamist militants in Mali, France's former colony.FULL STORY
The United Kingdom is prepared to deploy up to 40 troops to a European Union military training mission in Mali, and up to 200 troops as trainers in English-speaking West African countries, British Defense Minister Philip Hammond told lawmakers in the House of Commons on Tuesday.FULL STORY
French-led troops in Mali now control the ancient city of Timbuktu, the neighboring Gao - and the vast swath in between that was an Islamist stronghold for almost a year, the French defense ministry said.
"We are winning in Mali," French President Francois Hollande said at a news conference Monday, but added that militants still control parts of the north.
Hollande did not say how long France will maintain troops in its former colony.FULL STORY
[Updated 11:55 a.m. ET] French Defense Ministry spokesman Thierry Burkhardt says French and Malian forces are now in control of Timbuktu and Gao.
[Posted at 4:30 a.m. ET] French-led troops in Mali have seized control of the airport in Timbuktu from Islamist militants and are fighting their way into the city center, a spokesman for the Malian military said Monday.
Malian and French forces have together been battling the Islamists to loosen their grip on the country's north, which the militants have controlled for months.
The United States has also stepped up its involvement in the conflict by conducting aerial refueling missions on top of the intelligence and airlift support it was providing.FULL STORY
The U.S. Air Force has now flown seven C-17 missions into Mali, carrying 200 passengers, mainly French troops, and 168 tons of equipment, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Robert Firman said Thursday.
Meanwhile, discussions over the U.S. providing refueling services for French aircraft continue, a defense official tells CNN, saying such missions are likely to be approved in the coming days.
French forces are aiding the Malian military in fighting an Islamist insurgency in Mali.
As of Wednesday morning, U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo jets have made five flights to Mali, delivering about 80 French troops and more than 124 tons of supplies to help in the fight against Islamist insurgents in the country, a Pentagon spokesman said.
The U.S. airlift began Monday and was expected to continue for several days, U.S. Africa Command spokesman Chuck Prichard told CNN.
"We continue to consult with the French on further steps that we may take as U.S. government to support their efforts in Mali," Pentagon press secretary George Little said Wednesday, according to a report from American Forces Press Service.FULL STORY
The central Malian town of Konna has been retaken by French and Malian forces Friday, a high-ranking French observer on the ground told CNN. Insurgents took the town last Thursday, but started retreating a week ago after a combined air and ground assault.FULL STORY
[Updated at 7:46 p.m. ET] Although an Algerian military raid against the hostage-takers wrapped up on Thursday, a senior U.S. official stresses that more military operations could be coming.
"There are still hostages, and there are still terrorists," the official said, according to CNN's Elise Labott. "So tomorrow is another day."
[Updated at 5:51 p.m. ET] British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned his compatriots to prepare for "bad news ahead" related to kidnapping of dozens of hostages at a BP gas plant in Algeria.
"It is a fluid situation, it is ongoing," Cameron told the Reuters news agency. "But I think we should be prepared for the possibility of further bad news, very difficult news, in this extremely difficult situation."
Islamist militants who seized Westerners at an Algerian gas plant are demanding a safe passage to nearby Libya, authorities said, as fallout from the French offensive in Mali reverberates globally.
Media in the region reported that the attackers issued a news release demanding an end to "brutal aggression on our people in Mali" and cited "blatant intervention of the French crusader forces in Mali."
In the news release, the militants said they carried out the operation in Algeria because it allowed French forces to use its air space in attacking Islamist militants in Mali.FULL STORY
Germany will contribute two transport planes to the French-led military offensive against Islamist rebels in Mali, the German Defense Ministry announced Wednesday.
Italy also is ready for "a logistical support operation" in the West African nation, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said, according to the state-run ANSA news agency.
[Updated at 1:29 p.m. ET] Islamist rebels would have taken Mali's capital had France's military not intervened in the African nation in the last few days, French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday.
"If we had not taken up our responsibility and if on Friday morning we had not acted with this intervention, where would Mali be today?" he asked.
The French defense minister told CNN that up to 800 troops are in Mali to help Malian forces in an offensive against Islamist militants, and that up to 1,700 total French forces – including the 800 in Mali – are involved in a variety of capacities, such as offering logistical support from various French military bases across Africa.
Hollande, speaking on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, said France intends to "make way as quickly as possible" for an African force.
Read more about France's military intervention, which began Friday.