France launches new military offensive in Mali

French troops last week launched a new offensive against Islamist rebels in northern Mali—raised questions about whether Paris will in fact reduce the number of its forces in the African country from 3,000 to 1,200 by year’s end as planned. Islamist militants have been struggling to regain control of the contested area, known as the Niger Loop, which includes the cities of Gao and Timbuktu. French general staff spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said the new campaign, dubbed “Operation Hydra,” was undertaken joinlty with Malian army forces and troops from MINUSMA, the UN force for the country. “It is the first time we have seen forces of significant size working together,” Jaron said. (NYT, IBT, Al Jazeera, Oct. 24)

The new offensive follows an Oct. 23 suicide attack in which a bomber killed two Chadian soldiers from the UN force and injured six others in an attack on a checkpoint at the entry to the northern town of Tessalit. (Reuters, Oct. 23)

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  1. Two French journalists killed in Mali
    Two journalists for French radio station RFI were killed Nov. 2 after they were kidnapped in the northern town of Kidal in Mali. Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were abducted after interviewing local MNLA leader Ambeiry Ag Rhissa. Their bodies were found outside the town soon after. Reports conflict on whether Grench helicopters were pursuing the adbuctors when the two were killed. The killings come days after France was celebrating the release of four hostages from neighboring Niger. (BBC News)