PARIS, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday that France has 2,000 troops on the ground in Mali to fight against the Islamist rebels from the northern region.
Earlier media reports said France mulled over the deployment of 2,500 troops in Mali for the military operation. But the defense minister judged that the number may be exceeded as now 2,000 French troops have already been deployed in Mali.
France began to send troops on Jan. 11 to its former African colony for air and ground operation against the al-Qaida-linked Islamist rebels in Mali on request of the Malian government.
With the help of the French troops, the Malian government forces have retaken the town of Konna, but the situation is more confused in Diabali, about 360 km northeast of Bamako.
French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday that France will keep its military operation in Mali as long as needed "till the time when terrorism is defeated."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius went to attend the summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abidjan on Saturday to help speed up the deployment of the first military group of an African-led international Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).
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