French in tough fight in northern Mali

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 6:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 6:18pm

France’s defence minister says French troops are involved in “very violent fighting” in the mountains of northern Mali, and that it’s too early to talk about a quick pullout from the West African country despite the growing cost of the intervention.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said on France’s RTL radio Tuesday that the French intervention in Mali has cost more than US$133 million. French troops moved in Jan. 11 to help Mali’s weak military push back Islamist extremists.

Le Drian said, “we are now at the heart of the conflict,” in protracted fighting in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains. While some have suggested starting a pullout of the 4,000-strong French force next month, Le Drian said he couldn’t talk about a quick withdrawal while the mountain fighting goes on.