French foreign minister: Troops to leave Mali soon

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French foreign minister: Troops to leave Mali soon

SEVARE, Mali — France’s foreign minister said today that French forces would depart Mali “quickly” following their success in taking control of the airport in Kidal, a key position in the last remaining urban stronghold of Islamist extremists in northern Mali.

French and Malian troops have recaptured two of the other provincial capitals, Timbuktu and Gao, in recent days. Once France’s thousands of troops, fighter planes and helicopters depart, Mali’s weak army and soldiers from neighboring countries Islamists might be hard-pressed to retain control of northern Mali’s cities if the Islamists attempt a comeback from their desert hideouts.

“Now it’s up to African countries to take over,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Le Parisien newspaper. “We decided to put the means — in men and supplies — to make the mission succeed and hit hard. But the French aspect was never expected to be maintained. We will leave quickly.”

Haminy Maiga, the interim president of the Kidal regional assembly, said French forces met no resistance when they arrived late Tuesday.

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