A French soldier and more than 20 Islamist rebels have been killed in northern Mali during heavy clashes, said French President Francois Hollande today.
The dead man, Staff Sergeant Harold Vormezeele of the French Foreign Legion, was killed in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains, a remote area of the Sahara.
Fighting, said President Hollande, was continuing along the area straddling the Mali-Algeria frontier.
Meanwhile, Germany has announced it is to send up to 330 troops to support the action in Mali, providing training, logistics and transport to Malian forces.
The German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced: “We Europeans have a vested interest in northern Mali not becoming a safe haven for terrorism in the world. By providing training, we are making a contribution so that African troops, African armed forces can assume responsibility.”
France has already said it plans to start withdrawing troops from Mali this March, handing over to Malian armed forces and the UN backed AFISMA (African-led International Support Mission to Mali) forces mainly drawn from Mali’s West African neighbouring states.