A Canadian military transport plane departed for Mali on Tuesday, where it will transport equipment and personnel. Two British military transport aircraft have been assigned to help with the French troop deployment, but no British forces will be in a combat role.
The Nigerian army said it plans to deploy 900 soldiers within 10 days as part of a U.N.-mandated African force to fight the insurgents.
A cycle of unrest
Mali had military rulers for decades until its first democratic elections in 1992. It remained stable politically until March, when soldiers toppled the government, saying it had not provided adequate support for them to fight ethnic Tuareg rebels in the largely desert north.
Tuareg rebels, who'd sought independence for decades, took advantage of the power vacuum and seized swaths of land. A power struggle then erupted in the north between the Tuaregs and local al Qaeda-linked radicals, who wound up in control of the area the size of France.
In addition to the al Qaeda threat, amputations, floggings and public executions have become common in areas controlled by radical Islamists. They applied a strict interpretation of Sharia law that included banning music, smoking, drinking and watching sports.