PARIS - French special forces killed around 10 militants in a gun battle in northern Mali this month, Paris said on Thursday, as simmering violence threatens security at November elections and will delay a French troop withdrawal.
France, which sent soldiers to its former colony in January to oust militants who had taken over swathes of the West African country, will not draw down troop numbers to 1,000, from 3,200 by year-end as initially planned, a spokesman confirmed.
"We want to continue our reduction of troops to 1,000 by late January, early February," armed forces spokesman Gilles Jaron told a news conference.
French officials have previously said the withdrawal could be pushed back due to planned legislative elections on November 24.
Despite the French troops and a UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA), there have been several attacks this month targeting in particular Malian forces.
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