French soldiers are currently engaged in a ground offensive against Islamist revels in the town of Diabaly, central Mali. Fighting alongside Malian troops, the soldiers are seeking to reclaim the town that was captured by the al-Qaeda linked rebels on Monday.

France became involved in the Mali conflict last Friday in a bid to stop the advance of the Islamists rebels in the West African country, saying it posed security threat to Europe.

French fighter plans have already bombed the rebel-occupied northern towns of Goa and Timbuktu, as well as Diabaly, before a convoy of 50 armoured vehicles left from capital city Bamako overnight.

A Malian security source told Agence France-Presse news agency that during the assault French special forces were fighting "hand-to-hand" with Islamists alongside Malian forces in Diabaly.

France currently has some 800 troops in the country, but president Francois Hollande wants this number increased to around 2,500 in the coming weeks. Troops from Mali's west African allies are also set to join the conflict in the next 48 hours, according to Malian Army General Ibrahim Dembele.

Written and presented by Alfred Joyner