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French troops stage 'very large' anti-Islamist op in Mali

The French army is staging a large operation against Islamist fighters in the Timbuktu region of northern Mali ahead of weekend parliamentary elections, military sources said Friday. A French military source in the Malian capital, Bamako, said "military operations are ongoing" after French troops killed 19 militants in the area on Tuesday. "A very large military operation is under way, the largest in the Timbuktu region since allied forces retook the main northern cities," said an African military source in Timbuktu.

Kidnapped Mali election workers freed in north: official

By Adama Diarra BAMAKO (Reuters) - Gunmen have freed four election workers and a deputy mayor a day after they were kidnapped in Mali's remote northern town of Tessalit, a local official said on Sunday. An unexploded bomb was later discovered in the market of Kidal, another major northern town, adding to security concerns over a vote next week that some fear could lead to further instability, after a coup and Islamist uprising, due to poor preparations.

Mali family dine on camel gifted to French president

The camel that grateful townsfolk in Mali presented to President Francois Hollande for sending in French troops to chase away Islamist extremists has likely been eaten by the family that was supposed to be looking after it in Timbuktu. French defence officials said they were informed of the beast's ignominious demise during a visit to the war-torn African state last month, while Valeurs Actuelles magazine reported that the defence minister broke the bad news to the president during a recent cabinet meeting.

France starts troop pullout from Mali after anti-Islamist offensive

PARIS (Reuters) - France has started withdrawing its troops from Mali after an operation to help local forces push back an offensive by Islamist rebels, an army spokesman said on Tuesday. Paris aims to complete the withdrawal of 3,000 soldiers this year and will keep a permanent 1,000-strong combat force in the former colony to support a U.N. peacekeeping mission of African forces.

France withdraws first batch of soldiers from Mali

France has withdrawn its first batch of soldiers from Mali, the army said Tuesday, as it begins to pull out troops sent to battle Islamist fighters in the west African nation. The military's chief of staff said around 100 soldiers had been withdrawn and sent to Paphos in Cyprus, where they will spend three days in a hotel before heading back to France. They belonged to parachute units of the army that had been deployed in the Tessalit region of northeast Mali, where violent fighting against Islamists took place, said Thierry Burkhard, chief of staff spokesman.

France launches major offensive on Mali Islamists

A French force of 1,000 soldiers was Monday sweeping a valley thought to be a logistics base for Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists near the Malian city of Gao, an AFP journalist accompanying the mission said. Operation Gustav, one of France's largest actions since its intervention in its former colony, involves dozens of tanks, helicopters and aircraft, said General Bernard Barrera, commander of the French land forces in Mali.

France launches major offensive on Mali Islamists

A French force of 1,000 soldiers has begun a sweep of a valley thought to be a logistics base for Al Qaeda-linked Islamists near the Malian city of Gao, an AFP journalist accompanying the mission said. Operation Gustav, one of France's largest actions since its intervention in its former colony, will involve dozens of tanks, helicopters and aircraft, said General Bernard Barrera, commander of the French land forces in Mali.

France launches major offensive on Mali Islamists

A French force of 1,000 soldiers has begun a sweep of a river valley thought to be a logistics base for armed Islamists near the Malian city of Gao, an AFP journalist accompanying the mission said. Operation Gustav, one of France's largest actions since its intervention against insurgents in January, will involve dozens of tanks, helicopters, drones and aircraft, said General Bernard Barrera, commander of the French land forces in Mali.

Suicide car-bomber kills Malian soldier in Timbuktu

BAMAKO (Reuters) - A suicide car-bomber killed a Malian soldier and wounded six others in a raid on the airport in Timbuktu overnight, a spokesman for Mali's army said on Thursday, triggering a counterattack by French forces. It was the first suicide bombing in Timbuktu since French and Malian forces chased al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants from the ancient trading town nearly two months ago, and comes weeks ahead of the planned start to France's withdrawal from Mali.

A police colonel vows justice for all in Mali's Gao

Amid the chaos of Gao in strife-torn northern Mali, paramilitary police Colonel Salihou Maiga describes himself as a "law-abiding man" who will bring wrongdoers to justice, including Malian soldiers. Welcoming AFP journalists to his headquarters set up in a former clinic, Maiga pledges fair treatment for armed Islamists and the army alike at a time when rights groups are accusing troops of atrocities, including summary executions.
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