France ready to start Mali withdrawal

Ottawa - France is still ready to start pulling its forces out of Mali next month despite a rebel attack on the key town of Gao, the French commander of the defense staff said on Friday.

Admiral Edouard Guillaud told reporters after a speech in Ottawa that he was not surprised by Thursday's attack in Gao, when 15 Islamists were killed by French and Malian troops.

A French soldier aims his sniper rifle during fighting with Islamists in Gao. French and Malian troops fought Islamists on the streets of Gao on Thursday. Credit: Reuters

Asked whether France still planned to start withdrawing troops in March, he replied: “This is obviously conditions-based, that's obvious. But yet, I don't see any reason not to begin some drawdown.” - Reuters