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France to pull out troops from Mali by April: FM


17:59, March 07, 2013

PARIS, March 7 (Xinhua) -- France will start withdrawing its troops from Mali by April, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday.

"From April, we will start decreasing the number of troops engaged in Mali," Fabius told RTL radio.

However, "This does not mean that we will go overnight," he added.

The military campaign in the Ifoghas mountain range, the stronghold of Islamist fighters in northern Mali will end "within weeks," the French top diplomat said.

Asked if al-Qaeda main figures Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar were killed in fighting, the French minister said "many leaders were among the hundreds of terrorists who have been killed during the operation," without giving accurate details on their identities.

In a visit to Warsaw, French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday announced that terror chiefs died in northern Mali. But, he did not specify whether he was referring to the two commanders reported dead last week.

Since the start of the France-led military operation in Mali on Jan. 11, 4,000 French soldiers have been deployed in the former colony to oust al-Qaida-linked insurgents and to help restore the country's sovereignty.

So far, four French servicemen have been killed in Mali.

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