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France confirms "important air strikes" in northern Mali


07:31, February 04, 2013

PARIS, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- After aborting Islamist rebels offensive to the south of Mali, French forces launched an major air raids Saturday overnight in the country's northern region which has been in hands of Islamist rebels since 10 months, spokesman for the French army said Sunday.

"Important air strikes... in north of Kidal and the Tessalit region" were taking place near Algerian border and where the presumed Islamist fighters were hiding after losing main Malian cities, French news channel BFMTV reported, citing Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French army.

"(Air strikes) targeted logistics bases and training camps," Burkhard added.

The air raid came a few hours after French President Franois Hollande's visit to the West African country. Thirty warplanes including jets fighters, reconnaissance aircrafts pounded Islamists's stronghold in northern Mali, according to Burkhard.

On January 11, France intervened at the request of Malian authorities to help quashing rebels including Al-Qaida's North African branch AQIM from the northern region.

With 3,500 French soldiers and African troops sent in to battle the rebels vowing to impose Sharia law throughout Mali, the Malian army has quickly taken back the northern towns of Cao, Timbuktu and Kidal, the capitals of the three northern regions sharing the same names respectively.

On Saturday, Hollande paid a one-day visit to the former French colony, pledging to withdraw his troops from Mali once the country has restored sovereignty over its national territory and a UN-backed African military force can take over from French soldiers.

The Malian government hopes to hold an early election to end the crisis unleashed by a military coup on March 22, 2012 and the occupation of northern Mali by rebels in April of the same year.

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