French and Malian troops clashed with Islamist rebels near the large town of Gao, Paris said Wednesday after reporting that hundreds of insurgents had been killed in a "real war" to reclaim northern Mali.
A child leads his wood-filled donkey cart past a destroyed Malian army armoured vehicle on February 5, 2013 in Douentza. French-led forces have killed hundreds of Islamists in fighting to reclaim northern Mali and with the rebels' last bastion secured, France said it will begin withdrawing its troops from March.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the extremist rebels, who have been driven from key strongholds which they had controlled in northern Mali for 10 months, struck back at troops with rocket fire on Tuesday.
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