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French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and President François Hollande with troops in CAR
France is to deploy 3,000 troops in the Sahel, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday. They will fight Islamist militias and other armed groups in north Mali, northern Niger and Chad.
Pledging to “pursue counter-terrorism” in the region, Le Drian said that France will reorganise its military presence so that 3,000 soldiers are present in the region, where the Sahara desert joins savanna to the south.
Dossier: War in Mali
It has served as a refuge for criminals and armed groups that have been involved in violence in Algeria and Libya as well as the countries Le Drian mentioned.
France is “in the process of ending the frontal war phase” in Mali, where Operation Serval started in January 2013, Le Drian told BFMTV.
A French paratrooper was killed in Mali on Wednesday night, bringing France’s total losses there to eight.
The French deployment peaked at 5,000 but is set to be reduced to 1,000 soon.
But “a certain number of jihadi groups still want to regroup in the north”, the minister said, although UN forces are now present and the Malian army is rebuilding itself.
In the Central African Republic, where French troops arrived last November, 13 people, including two non-combatants, were killed in clashes between Muslim and Christian militias on Thursday.