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UN creates expert mission to boost Mali rights

The United Nations will appoint an independent expert to investigate and help improve the human rights situation in war-torn Mali, the UN Human Rights Council decided Thursday. The 47 members of the UN's top human rights body approved the resolution presented by Gabon on behalf of the African group of nations by consensus, clearing the way for an expert to spend one year working to protect and promote human rights in Mali.

France appoints new envoy to conflict-torn Mali

France on Thursday appointed a new ambassador to Mali, the foreign ministry said, amid a French-backed military intervention against Islamist rebels in the west African nation. Gilles Huberson will replace Christian Rouyer, foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said, adding that it was in the framework of a routine reshuffle of French diplomatic posts in Africa.

URGENT ¥¥¥ France appoints new envoy to conflict-torn Mali

France on Thursday appointed a new ambassador to Mali, the foreign ministry said, amid a French-backed military intervention against Islamist rebels there. Gilles Huberson will replace Christian Rouyer, foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said. According to diplomatic sources in Mali, Rouyer reportedly fell out with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. cf/ach/lc

Al-Qaeda says French hostage killed in Mali

A French hostage has been executed in Mali, a man claiming to be a spokesman for Al-Qaeda in North Africa told Mauritania's ANI news agency late Tuesday. A French foreign office spokesman said Paris was trying to verify the report of the killing of Philippe Verdon, who was kidnapped in November 2011, adding that "we don't know at the moment" whether it was reliable.

French army says 15 Islamists killed in Mali

Fifteen Islamist fighters have been killed in recent days in the northern Mali region of Gao, the French army said Tuesday, announcing the seizure of a large cache of arms and ammunition. The claim came two weeks after France said more than 150 Islamist rebels had been killed since the middle of February in Mali. French losses in the intervention have been limited to five casualties. The French soldiers came under sporadic heavy- and medium-range fire in the area of Djebok, east of Gao, the joint staff said, adding that they "neutralised 15 terrorists" since Thursday.

French jihadi detained after return from Mali: sources

A French jihadist arrested earlier this month in Mali returned to France on Tuesday and was immediately detained, judicial and informed sources said Tuesday. The 37-year-old is among six men captured at the start of this month during fighting between French-led troops and Islamist rebels in the Ifoghas mountains in northern Mali. Informed sources said the man was being held in a counter-espionage detention centre near Paris and being probed for "associating with criminals and links to a terrorist organisation."

France says checking DNA to see if top Mali Islamists dead

France is carrying out DNA tests to determine whether top Islamist militant leaders were among those killed in recent fighting in Mali, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday. "We know that there were a fair number of leaders among the several hundred terrorists killed" in recent days, Fabius said on RTL radio. "Very precise DNA tests must be carried out to determine their identities, which military services are currently doing," he said.

URGENT ¥¥¥ France to reduce number of Mali troops from April: Hollande

French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that his country would begin pulling out troops from Mali as of April. The "final phase" of the French intervention in the troubled west African country "will last through March and from April there will be a decrease in the number of French soldiers in Mali as African forces will take over supported by the Europeans," Hollande said during a visit to Warsaw. bo-ha/mas/rm

Third French soldier killed in Mali fighting

France said Sunday that one of its soldiers had been killed in fighting in northern Mali, in the third death of a French serviceman since the launch of its military intervention in mid-January. The presidency said in a statement that the soldier, from the First Parachute Chasseur Regiment, was killed in combat on Saturday night. President Francois Hollande in the statement expressed his "profound respect for the sacrifice of this young soldier" and hailed the "courage and ardour" of French forces fighting in Mali.

Mali crisis disrupts education of 700,000 children: UN

The conflict in northern Mali has disrupted the education of nearly three quarters of a million children, the United Nations Children's Fund told AFP on Sunday. "The crisis in Mali has disrupted the education of some 700,000 Malian children, leaving 200,000 still with no access to school both in the north and south of the country, according to UNICEF and educational authorities in Mali," UNICEF said in a statement.
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