Update, 3:36 p.m.: According to the Associated Press, Mali's president, Dioncounda Traore, has declared a state of emergency.
Original post: In an attempt to defend the troubled government from Islamic extremists threatening to bring it down, French military forces have entered the West African country of Mali. Earlier on Friday, French president Francois Hollande said he would act to stop any further advance by the rebel groups, and multiple reports now confirm that military personnel are on the ground. Hollande says the operation will last "as long as necessary," but doesn't say what will have to happen for the troops' presence to no longer be necessary.
Last March, a military coup successfully unseated the president of Mail, installing a new interim government. However, over the last year militant Islamic fighters took advantage of the political chaos to launch their own offensive, seizing more than half of the country's territory and and implementing harsh sharia laws, including amputations as punishments. The domination of the Islamists has to lead to fears that Mali could turn into the next Afghanistan—a rogue country ruled by religious extremists and a haven for terrorist groups to train.
In recent weeks, the fighters have moved closer to the capital and other military outposts prompting calls for Western nations, and in particular France—Mail's former colonial ruler—to intervene.