PARIS/BAMAKO,  French warplanes pounded Islamist rebel camps in the far north of Mali, military sources said, hours after French President Francois Hollande visited the West African country.

Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French army in Paris, said on Sunday the overnight raids targeted logistics bases and training camps used by the al- Qaida linked rebels to the north of the desert town of Kidal.

He said the bombing raids took place around the settlement of Tessalit, close to the Algerian border, one of the main gateways into the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains where the rebels are believed to be hiding after fleeing major towns.

France has deployed 3,500 ground troops, fighter jets and armoured vehicles in the three-week-old Operation Serval (Wildcat) which has broken the Islamists' 10-month-old grip on the towns of northern Mali, where they had violently imposed sharia law.

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