France will keep to Mali troop reduction calendar

The French army had redeployed 150 soldiers from the south to Kidal, the Tuareg rebel stronghold in the north.

France will keep to Mali troop reduction calendar

World Bulletin / News Desk

France will not delay its troop withdrawal from Mali despite a resurgence in violence that saw two French journalists killed at the weekend, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday.

France, which sent soldiers to its former colony in January to combat armed groups who had taken over swathes of the country, has already pushed back by two months plans to reduce troop numbers to 1,000, from 3,200 by the end of the year.

Fabius, speaking on RFI radio, confirmed the French army had redeployed 150 soldiers from the south to Kidal, the Tuareg rebel stronghold in the north, where instability has grown in recent months.

"President (Hollande) immediately decided to strengthen our presence in Kidal, but that does not put into question the calendar and the reduction of French forces," Fabius said.

Malian forces and U.N. peacekeeping troops would also be increased, he said.

France launched air strikes and sent thousands of soldiers into Mali in January to drive back rebels it said could turn Mali into a base for attacks.

Legislative elections are due on Nov. 24, but the journalists' deaths follow a string of attacks in the desert zone of northern Mali.

Last month Malian and international forces launched a big operation to keep pressure on the groups.

Last Mod: 05 Kasım 2013, 12:27
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