13 Chadian troops, 65 rebels killed in Mali clashes

Malian people are controlled by Malian soldiers at a check point on February 23, 2013 in the center of northern Mali's largest city of Gao. Fresh fighting erupted in northern Mali, security sources told, the latest unrest to hit the area in the wake of a French-led campaign that drove radical Islamist fighters from major cities.

At least thirteen Chadian soldiers and 65 militants have been killed in a fierce battle in the mountainous Ifoghas region of northern Mali, Chad's military command announced Friday.

"The Chadian army destroyed five vehicles and killed 65 jihadists," it said in a statement, adding that 13 of its soldiers had been killed and another five wounded.

The casualties are the heaviest in Mali since France launched its campaign against the region's Islamist rebels six weeks ago, according to Reuters

The United States has sent drones from Niger to collect information about the rebels and sharing it with French troops in Mali, who are still assisting thousands of African troops after their initial coup in Mali last month, BBC News reported

Earlier this month, around 1,800 Chadian soldiers took control of the northern city of Kidal to secure what had been the rebels' last stronghold.

Chad promised 2,000 soldiers to the the African-led AFISMA intervention force in Mali.

France hopes this force will replace its troops after their lightning offensive that forced the militants from the northern cities into the surrounding desert wilderness and the northern mountains.

Also on Friday, two suicide car bombings in the town of Tessalit left three people dead, Al Jazeera English reported. The bombers were reportedly targeting ethnic Tuareg forces stationed there.