France to withdraw troops from Mali in March



Zeenews Bureau

Paris: Over hundreds of Islamist militants have been killed in nearly one month of French-led intervention Mali, French Defence Minister said on Wednesday.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that “several hundred” militants were killed in French airstrikes and direct combat with French troops, as per a BBC report.

Meanwhile, France is also planning to begin troops withdrawal from Mali in March.

"I think that starting in March, if everything goes as planned, the number of our troops should diminish," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a newspaper interview.

Fabius added that terrorist threats remain and that the fight isn't over yet, but that ultimately Africans and Malians themselves need to take responsibility for the region's security.

French troops’ withdrawal announcement came as forces from France and Chad secured a key bastion in northern Mali, the city of Kidal.

France has some 4,000 troops in Mali as of Tuesday, a French military official said. That's about the same number as France had at the height of its 11-year military presence in Afghanistan.

France launched the Mali operation last month to drive back al-Qaida-linked extremists who had seized the north of the country, imposing harsh rule on local populations, and had started pushing toward Mali's capital. France's government fears the region could become a haven for international terrorists.

A U.N. diplomat said Tuesday that the French are talking about another month or so of active engagement in Mali, with one aim being the interruption of supplies to the extremists.

The UN Security Council is likely to wait until the end of February, when the military action has hopefully ended, to adopt a new resolution authorizing a U.N. peacekeeping force for Mali, the diplomat said. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the Mali conflict.

With Agency Inputs