At least 11 killed during Mali military operation

This picture released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows a French Mirage 2000 D aircraft refueling while 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)

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A presidential spokesman says at least 11 Malians were killed and over 60 injured after the country launched a military intervention to fight al-Qaida-linked rebels advancing on a crucial town.

In a communique read on state television late Saturday, Ousmane Sy, the secretary-general at the presidential palace said that the 11 were killed in the town of Konna, which the rebels took last Thursday, prompting France to authorize airstrikes to help Mali take back the territory.

The mayor of Konna, Sory Diakite, told The Associated Press on Sunday that at least three of the dead were children who drowned after they threw themselves into the river running alongside the town in an effort to escape the bombardments. Others were killed inside their compounds, and in the street.