France to reduce troop levels in Mali

March 29, 2013 at 9:04 AM

PARIS, March 29 (UPI) -- France will reduce the number of troops it deployed to Mali to 1,000 by the end of the year, French President Francois Hollande said.

"We have achieved our objectives," Hollande said Thursday in a television interview with France 2.

About 4,000 French troops were sent in January to the country's former colony to help Mali fighters battle Islamic insurgents in northern Mali

In recent weeks, French and allied forces, including Malian and Chadian troops, have made significant inroads combating rebels who had seized control in the north after a military coup and were working toward the capital.

Hollande said troop levels would be cut to 2,000 by July.

Withdrawals are expected to begin in April, the BBC said.

Hollande said during the France 2 interview that one goal -- the release of six French hostages being held in the Sahel -- hasn't been reached. However, he said France wouldn't pay ransom for the hostages' freedom.

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