France says 19 Islamists killed in recent Mali offensive

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed that 19 armed Islamists had been killed in a French-led military operation this week targeting al Qaeda-linked rebels in restive northern Mali.

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 15, 2013, 20:19 PM IST

Paris: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed on Sunday that 19 armed Islamists had been killed in a French-led military operation this week targeting al Qaeda-linked rebels in restive northern Mali.
"There were 19 killed," Fabius said on Europe 1 radio.

The French offensive targeted al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) fighters north of the desert caravan town of Timbuktu.

France launched a military intervention in January that evicted Islamist rebels from northern Mali towns they had taken in the wake of a coup in Bamako last year, including Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.

But the jihadists have continued to launch periodic strikes on French, Malian and African peacekeeping forces.

Yesterday, an Islamist suicide bomber killed two UN peacekeepers in Kidal, a northeastern rebel bastion.

Their deaths and the continuing insecurity overshadowed a second round of parliamentary elections that took place today.

The French offensive this week was a "huge military operation, the largest in the Timbuktu region since the major northern cities were retaken by allied forces," an African military source in Timbuktu said earlier.

Fabius said that while there was still some unrest in northern Mali, the country as a whole had been "secured".