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Africa Subsaharan
France: Hundreds of Islamist militants killed in Mali
2013-02-06
"Several hundred" Islamist militants have been killed since France launched an offensive in Mali last month, the French defence minister has said.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said they had been killed in airstrikes and direct combat with French troops.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that France may begin pulling out of Mali as early as March.

In a newspaper interview, he said that "if everything goes as planned, the number of troops should diminish".

France has an estimated 4,000 troops in Mali and officials from multilateral institutions and dozens of countries have been meeting in Brussels to discuss how to replace them.

The defence minister said the last major town in northern Mali to remain in the hands of the rebels, Kidal, was now under French control.

Air attacks are continuing on suspected rebel hideouts north of the town.
'Significant number'

The militants died in French airstrikes on vehicles carrying fighters and materials, or in ground fighting in the town of Konna at the start of the campaign and later in the town of Gao, Mr Le Drian said.

He said French troops had inflicted "great damage on the jihadist terrorist groups", saying "several hundred, a significant number" of Islamist fighters had been killed.
Posted by:tipper

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