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French warplanes have bombed fresh targets in northern Mali in their efforts to rid the country of Islamist militants.

The so-called “major” air strikes were carried out overnight in the Tessalit area north of Kidal. Military commanders describe it as the last bastion of radicals who occupied the desert north for months before France’s intervention.

The action came just hours after French President Francois Hollande ended his visit to the country where large crowds gathered to greet him.

He praised the work of French and Malian troops but warned France would withdraw its forces once Mali has restored sovereignty over its territory and a UN backed African military unit can take over.

Drawn mostly from Mali’s West African neighbours, this force is expected to number more than 8,000.

But its deployment has been badly hampered by shortages of kit and airlift capacity and
questions over who will fund estimated costs of up to a billion euros.

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