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Francois Hollande to visit Mali

President Francois Hollande is to visit Mali, where three weeks of targeted French air strikes have forced Islamist militants to retreat.

France’s President Francois Hollande will fly into Bamako to meet interim President Dioncounda Traore, his office says.

He is set to visit Timbuktu, recently seized from Islamist rebels by French and Malian troops, on Saturday.

The French military intervention has recaptured large parts of northern Mali from Islamist groups.

French troops are currently securing Kidal, the last major town which was occupied by militants who had controlled much of the northern part of the former French colony since a coup last year.

Francois Hollande will be joined on his trip by Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Development Minister Pascal Canin.

Earlier, Jean-Yves Le Drian said the jihadists had now scattered, marking a “turning-point” in France’s intervention.


President Francois Hollande is to visit Mali, where three weeks of targeted French air strikes have forced Islamist militants to retreat

President Francois Hollande is to visit Mali, where three weeks of targeted French air strikes have forced Islamist militants to retreat

French polls suggest the public only have patience for a limited operation: Eradicating the Islamist threat entirely is a bridge too far.

Francois Hollande’s objective is to prepare to hand over the towns the French-led troops have captured to an African force that has begun to deploy to Mali, and create enough stability to facilitate new elections by July.

So far about 2,000 African soldiers, mainly from Chad and Niger, are on the ground in Mali.

On Thursday, French military spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard said a column of 1,400 troops from Chad was heading towards Kidal from the Niger border.

It will be the job of the African Union-backed force, the International Support Mission to Mali (Afisma), to root out the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents that have fled into the desert and mountains further north.

The Tuareg rebels launched the insurgency in October 2011 before falling out with the Islamist militants.

The Islamist fighters extended their control of the vast north of Mali in April 2012, in the wake of a military coup.

France launched a military operation this month after the Islamist militants appeared to be threatening the south.

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