French Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has arrived in the Malian city of Gao to address troops and officers along with their African counterparts.

His visit on Friday came as a gradual withdrawal of more than 4,000 French troops from northern Mali gets under way, after the country intervened to stop a rebel advance in January.

A UN peacekeeping force is taking over the mission in July, but 1,000 French troops will remain to assist.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reports from Gao.

Source: Al Jazeera