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Forces in operations against Mali extremists

25 October 2013, 10:37

Paris - French, UN and Malian forces were engaged in a major operation aimed at preventing a resurgence of Islamist rebels in Mali, the French military said on Thursday.

"We have engaged, with the Malian army and [UN mission] Minusma, in a large-scale operation" in the north of the country, French general staff spokesperson Colonel Gilles Jaron said.

"It is the first time we have seen forces of significant size working together," Jaron said. He said "several hundred" French soldiers were involved, but would not provide exact numbers or details on the other forces taking part.

The goal of the mission - dubbed "Hydra" - was "to put pressure on any terrorist movements to avoid their resurgence," he said.

"This is one those operations that are conducted regularly... to participate in the stabilisation of the country."

It was not clear exactly when the operation had started, but its announcement came after two Chadian UN peacekeepers and a civilian were killed in northern Mali on Wednesday.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants said they were behind the attack on a UN checkpoint in the town of Tessalit.

The UN Security Council strongly condemned the attack, which followed an urgent request by the UN mission in Mali for more troops.

UN forces have been facing an upsurge in rocket attacks and bombings by militants ahead of nationwide elections next month in the troubled west African nation.



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