France wrapping up military operation in Mali

Paris - France's defence minister says the French military operation in Mali "fulfilled its mission" and is being reorganised into a regional force against terrorists across northwest Africa.

France intervened 18 months ago after al-Qaeda-linked extremists seized a swath of the former French colony.

Operation Serval was repeatedly extended to help Mali's government regain control, and is expected to end soon - perhaps this week when French President Francois Hollande visits Africa.

While French-led forces dispersed extremists and the UN established a peacekeeping force, sporadic violence continues. Meanwhile, concern has mounted about links between Mali's fighters and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Europe-1 radio on Sunday that the French force will become a 3 000-strong regional operation focused on fighting terrorists and based in Mali, Chad and Niger.

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