Agence France-Presse

French forces kill 19 Islamists in northern Mali

French legionnaires who parachuted onto Timbuktu on January 28, 2013 to recapture the northern Malian desert city walk on January 30 at Timbuktu airport to board a plane to return to their base in Abidjan. French troops on January 30 entered Kidal, the last Islamist bastion in Mali's north after a whirlwind Paris-led offensive, as France urged peace talks to douse ethnic tensions targeting Arabs and Tuaregs.



French forces have killed 19 Islamists during security operations in Mali's northern region of Timbuktu, a French officer confirmed on Tuesday.

"There were clashes north of Timbuktu on the road to Taoudenit. We neutralized 19 people. The operations are continuing," said the officer, who asked not to be named, to Reuters.

There were no French casualties.

France still has up to 3,000 troops in Mali after intervening in January to remove Islamist and secessionist rebels who had occupied the north of the country.

Another 6,000 soldiers and police were also deployed to Mali by the United Nations Minusma force.

More from GlobalPost: France begins next stage of troop withdrawal from Mali

''The clash happened during an ongoing operation that began last week,'' Hubert de Quievrecourt, the spokesman for French operations in Mali, told the BBC.

He denied reports that the 19 bodies had been left in the sun and spotted by nomads.

''Those bodies would not be from our clash. We always bury our corpses where they died,'' he said.

The most recent violence comes as Malians are due to vote on Sunday in a second round of parliamentary polls meant to mark the country's first move toward recovery after it became lost in chaos during a military coup in March last year.

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