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French troops have seized a 'very impressive' weapons cache from the Al Qaeda base.
French troops have dismantled Ametetai, a major Al Qaeda base in Mali's Ifoghas mountains.
Jean Yves-Le Drian, France's defense minister, announced the capture after his two-day tour of the region, as France prepares to hand over the mission to African forces aided by the UN at the end of the month.
"We knew this part of Mali was potentially the sanctuary of AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), and we weren't wrong," Le Drian told Europe 1 Radio from Mali, according to BBC News.
"We're dealing with resolute and heavily-armed terrorists, who are engaging in significant fighting, and we have been able to inflict heavy damage on them, he added.
The defense minister said they found weapons "by the ton," including AK47s, grenade launchers and pick-ups hidden in natural caves, BBC News reported.
He added that he had not expected to find such a large cache of weapons.
In addition to sifting through the weapons, French troops are also conducting DNA tests to try and identify some of the Islamist fighters killed in battle, CNN reported.
Though the French and allied African troops have made huge inroads in Mali, they are still being met with resistance from militants hiding in the mountains near Algeria, Reuters reported.
Le Drian also said that the soldiers were "practically in face-to-face combat" with the militants in pockets around Gao, BBC News reported.
France has around 4,000 soldiers currently in the region, with support from 6,300 African troops.
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