This picture released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French Mirage 2000 D aircraft flying to N'Djamena overnight January 11 to 12, after taking off from the French military base of Nancy. The battle to retake Mali's north from the al-Qaida-linked groups controlling it began in earnest Saturday, after hundreds of French forces deployed to the country and began aerial bombardments to drive back the Islamic extremists from a town seized earlier this week. (AP Photo/ R.Nicolas-Nelson, Ecpad)The Associated Press
PARIS – France has a history of intervention in Africa, where it was a colonial power for decades and still maintains several military sites and has hundreds of troops across the continent, including Senegal, Ivory Coast, Chad and Gabon.
— January 2013: French helicopter gunships and fighter jets struck at Islamist fighters in Mali at the request of Mali's president, after the rebels began seizing territory well to the south of the strongholds they had held for the previous nine months. It was the first military intervention under French President Francois Hollande.
— January 2011: Two French hostages were killed on the Niger-Mali border by their captors as French rescue forces closed in.
— January 2013: A French commando was killed and another missing after a failed raid to rescue an intelligence agent held hostage in Somalia for more than three years.
— April 2009: French commandos stormed a sailboat off the Somali coast to rescue hostages held by pirates. One hostage was killed and four were freed in the operation, which was part of an EU-led anti-piracy operation.
— April 2011: French tanks and helicopters backed Ivory Coast troops trying to oust Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to leave power after disputed elections. A French armored advance in Abidjan allowed troops for Alassane Ouattara to secure the city and take Gbagbo into custody.
— November 2004: French troops fought soldiers from Ivory Coast and French jets all but destroyed the West African country's air force after its warplanes from killed at least nine French peacekeepers and an American civilian.
— March 2011: France was a leading force in the NATO operation against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces in 2011. Then-President Nicolas Sarkozy sent French jets to target Gadhafi's forces after pressing for a no-fly zone.
— April 2006: France provided intelligence to government forces of President Idriss Deby, who himself received military training in France. The intelligence allowed Deby to keep power against a rebel force that threatened to seize control of the nation rich in oil reserves.