2,000 French troops now in Mali: Defence minister
AFP, Saturday 19 Jan 2013
French troops on ground in Mali reach 2,000; French defense minister announces around 4,000 troops to be mobilized for operation

France now has 2,000 troops on the ground in Mali as part of a drive against Islamist militants holding the north of the country, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday.

That was 200 more than a day earlier, said the minister during a visit to the western port of Lorient, adding that a further 900 French soldiers were supporting the operation from bases outside Mali.

French defence officials on Saturday said they had never stated that France was aiming to have a total of 2,500 soldiers on the ground in its former colony in West Africa. That figure was widely used in the media.

Le Drian said Saturday that "perhaps we will go beyond that", and added that "in any case, around 4,000 troops will be mobilised for this operation" in Mali itself and elsewhere.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has vowed to boost the French effort with a total of about 5,800 troops. But only about a 100 have actually reached Mali.

West African leaders were meeting Saturday in Ivory Coast to try to fast track the deployment.

France launched its intervention on Janaury 11 after rebels swooped down from their northern stronghold and threatened the Malian capital Bamako.