France begins Mali withdrawal in north

Defence minister says 1,000 French troops will remain in country as UN force prepares to take over peackeeping mission.

    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


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