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Hollande: France to reduce its military contingent in Mali down to 1,600 by mid-February

January 09, 2014, 1:36 UTC+3 PARIS
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PARIS, January 09, /ITAR-TASS/. France will reduce its military contingent in Mali from 2,500 to 1,600 by mid-February, President Francois Hollande announced on Wednesday when visiting an Air Force base in the French city of Creil.

The President also reaffirmed that Paris intends to stick to the planned schedule for a gradual drawdown of military units from Mali. Hollande said that in the first half of 2014, the numerical strength of the French contingent would be cut down to 1,000. "This will be enough to counter possible threats, since terrorist groups are still operating in Mali's north," he said.

French troops had arrived at the territory of Mali in January 2013 during Operation Serval the purpose of which had been to assist the authorities of the republic in fighting Islamists and Touareg rebels, who had captured a half of the country. The main tasks of restoring the constitutional order were accomplished by early April last year. However, after several months of a relative lull in Mali's north, militants of armed groups opposing the country's government have become active again.

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