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President François Hollande has defended his country’s military intervention in Mali and hinted that French forces may go on the offensive against the Islamists.

He was speaking during a visit to Dubai after French warplanes carried out a new wave of air strikes.

France already has 750 troops in Mali and wants to increase that number to 2,500.

“You’re asking what we will do to the terrorists if we find them? We’ll destroy them, make prisoners if possible and make sure they can’t do any more harm in the future. We are in an operation that is not simply to defend a line. Which line by the way? There are no frontiers in Mali’s interior,” the president said.

The French leader claimed militants had not conquered Diabali but had taken refuge there for protection. Reports said the town had faced a counter-attack launched from the Mauritanian border. It is among the areas targeted by French airstrikes against Islamist bases in the rebel-controlled north.

It is thought the second phase of the operation will seek to drive militants out of the towns they have been occupying.

President Hollande also praised European and other countries for their pledges of logistical support.

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