Paris - France has delayed plans to redeploy 3 000 soldiers to fight militants across West Africa, saying it first needs to help deal with a fresh outbreak of violence in northern Mali.
Paris had hoped to move the troops from its former colony Mali and other bases to target Islamist groups operating between southern Libya, northern Chad and northern Niger. It fears the fighters could use the region to mount international attacks.
But it paused the plans after deadly clashes broke out between Mali government troops and Tuareg separatists in the north over the weekend, said officials.
“Given the events of the last 48 hours, the operation to transfer operation Serval (in Mali) to a Sahel-Sahara French force must be delayed for several weeks,” a defence ministry source said.
France originally sent troops into Mali after al Qaeda-linked Islamists took advantage of a Tuareg-led rebellion and seized control of the country's north in 2012. A French-led military operation, known as Serval, drove them back last year.