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Feb 19, 2013

French soldier killed in Mali, 20 rebels dead

PARIS/DAKAR (Reuters) – A French soldier and more than 20 Islamist rebels were killed during what appeared to be the first clashes in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range where militants have taken refuge in northern Mali, French officials said on Tuesday.

Speaking on a visit to Athens, French President Francois Hollande said serious fighting had broken out and was continuing in the remote area that straddles the Mali-Algeria border, resulting in several casualties among the rebels and one French legionnaire.

Feb 12, 2013

Libya needs help to secure borders: foreign minister

PARIS (Reuters) – Libya’s foreign minister called on Tuesday for Western and Arab allies to help seal his country’s borders to stop defeated Islamist rebels coming in from Mali and further destabilizing the strife-hit oil producer.

Tripoli’s government, already struggling to impose security two years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, is worried al Qaeda-linked fighters pushed out of Mali by a French-led offensive could seek refuge in its vast desert territory.

Feb 6, 2013

France wants U.N. peacekeeping force for Mali by April

PARIS (Reuters) – France wants the African-led military mission in Mali to be replaced with a United Nations peacekeeping mandate by April, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday.

Having swiftly seized the main towns in northern Mali from Islamist militias in a three-week campaign, France is keen not to get bogged down in a costly long-term deployment.

Feb 5, 2013

France to host meeting on Libyan security next week

PARIS (Reuters) – Countries that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi will meet in Paris next week to discuss how to stabilize Libya, which has been beset by security problems since the late dictator was toppled, French sources said on Tuesday.

France, which led international efforts to oust Gaddafi, will convene ministers and senior diplomats from the United States, Britain, Arab nations, the United Nations and European Union to Tuesday’s meeting in Paris.

Feb 4, 2013

Mali Tuaregs seize two fleeing Islamist leaders

KIDAL, Mali/PARIS (Reuters) – Tuareg rebels in northern Mali said on Monday they had captured two senior Islamist insurgents fleeing French air strikes toward the Algerian border and France pressed ahead with its bombing campaign against al Qaeda’s Saharan desert camps.

Pro-autonomy Tuareg MNLA rebels said one of their patrols seized Mohamed Moussa Ag Mohamed, an Islamist leader who imposed harsh sharia (Islamic law) in the desert town of Timbuktu, and Oumeini Ould Baba Akhmed, thought to be responsible for the kidnapping of a French hostage by al Qaeda splinter group MUJWA.

Jan 30, 2013

French troops deployed in last Mali rebel strongholds

DOUENTZA, Mali/PARIS (Reuters) – French troops seized the airport in Mali’s northern town of Kidal, the last urban stronghold held by Islamist insurgents, as they moved to wrap up the first phase of a military operation to wrest northern Mali from rebel hands.

France has deployed some 4,500 troops in a three-week ground and air offensive to break the Islamist rebels’ 10-month grip on major northern towns. The mission is aimed at heading off the risk of Mali being used as a springboard for jihadist attacks in the wider region or Europe.

Jan 30, 2013

France says Mali authorities must begin talks with north

PARIS (Reuters) – Mali’s interim government in Bamako must begin immediate talks with the country’s northern population including armed groups that recognize the territorial integrity of the West African state, France said on Wednesday.

“The Malian authorities must begin without delay talks with the legitimate representatives of the northern population and non-terrorist armed groups that recognize Mali’s integrity,” French Foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said.

Jan 28, 2013

France fears Islamist rise in Syria unless opposition helped

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s foreign minister said on Monday Syria risks falling into the hands of Islamist militant groups if supporters of the Syrian opposition do not do more to help it in a 22-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

Addressing the opening of a conference in Paris with senior members of the Syrian National Coalition, Laurent Fabius said the meeting must focus on making the opposition politically and militarily cohesive to encourage international assistance.

Jan 25, 2013

France is “enemy number 1″ for jihadists after Mali, judge says

PARIS (Reuters) – The rise of Islamist militants in Mali has been “a rallying cry” for potential jihadists in France, but an attack on French soil is unlikely in the short term, France’s top anti-terrorism judge said on Friday.

France launched air strikes and deployed thousands of ground troops in Mali this month to drive back al Qaeda-linked rebels it fears will turn its former colony into a launch pad to attack French political and economic interests.

Jan 25, 2013

France is “enemy number 1″ for jihadists after Mali: judge

PARIS (Reuters) – The rise of Islamist militants in Mali has been “a rallying cry” for potential jihadists in France, but an attack on French soil is unlikely in the short term, France’s top anti-terrorism judge said on Friday.

France launched air strikes and deployed thousands of ground troops in Mali this month to drive back al Qaeda-linked rebels it fears will turn its former colony into a launch pad to attack French political and economic interests.