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After five days of airstrikes aimed at Islamist rebels, French troops are engaged in their first ground battles with those forces in Mali, according to several news outlets.
France 24 reports that "French special forces began fighting on the ground with Islamist rebels in central Mali on Wednesday, according to regional security sources, six days after the European power launched an air offensive in the country."
The BBC writes that "French troops have been fighting Mali's Islamist rebels in street battles in the town of Diabaly, Malian and French sources say. In the first major ground operation in the conflict, French special forces were fighting alongside Malian troops."
Meanwhile, "foreign workers at a gas field in Algeria were believed to have been kidnapped Wednesday in what the U.K. government described as an 'ongoing terrorist incident,' " NBC News reports. Reuters says there may be more than 40 hostages, and that Americans may be among them. It adds that "the raid, claimed by an al-Qaida affiliate, came after Islamists had vowed to retaliate for France's military intervention in Mali."
We reported Monday that the militants had vowed to "strike at the heart of France. ... In Bamako, in Africa and in Europe."
Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. U.S. Officials Say Americans Are Among The Hostages:
NPR's Tom Bowman has been told by one U.S. official with knowledge of the situation that U.S. citizens are among those being held, and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has told reporters that "the best information we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages."