A French soldier has been killed in northern Mali, becoming the sixth Frenchman to die since the beginning of France's military campaign in January.

The 32-year-old soldier was killed in Boughessa on Monday during an operation aimed at securing the area by chasing anti-government fighters and destroying their logistics.

Two others were seriously wounded by the blast in the country's far north, the French defence ministry has said.

Francois Hollande, France's president, sent his condolences to the soldier's family and hailed "the determination and courage of the French forces engaged in Mali alongside Malian and [other] African forces".

The French-led campaign is helping Malian troops to push al-Qaeda linked fighters out of the country.

Paris has said about 1,000 soldiers will remain in Mali beyond this year to back up a UN force that is to replace the International Support Mission for Mali (MISMA).

The UN force of 12,600 peacekeepers, to be responsible for stabilising the north will be phased in gradually from July.

Source: Agencies