A third French soldier has been killed in northern Mali fighting along side African troops.
The joint force is hunting down pockets of al-Qaeda linked insurgents in the Ifoghas mountains bordering Algeria. In this area it is thought several French hostages are being held.
France still has not confirmed the killings of two al-Qaeda leaders: Mokhtar Belmokhtar, said to be the mastermind behind the Algeria gas plant attack
and Adelhamid Abou Zeid, al Qaeda’s second-in-command in the Islamic Maghreb.
Chadian troops fighting as part of the international force claim to have killed both men.
Meanwhile Mali’s own soldiers have arrested 50 people on an island in the Niger river close to the northern town of Gao. The area was apparently being used as a hide-out by armed Islamists.
The operation which was led by a Tuareg colonel, entered Kadji village which is home to several hundred followers of an Islamic fundamentalist movement.