France Hits Mali Rebels with Air Strikes

French airstrikes overnight in Mali drove back Islamic rebels from a key city and destroyed a militant command centre, the French defense minister said Saturday. A French special forces helicopter pilot was killed during the fighting. France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that hundreds of French troops were involved in an operation that destroyed a command center of Islamic rebels in Mali. A French helicopter pilot died of his wounds in the operation, which involved air strikes on three rebel targets overnight. Le Drian said France was compelled to act quickly to stop the Islamist offensive, which he said could allow "a terrorist state at the doorstep of France and Europe". On Friday, Mali's Islamist militants warned France that it would "pay the price" for its military operation.