New Offensive by French Forces

French military forces began a fresh offensive today against extremists in the northern Malian region of Gao who have staged a series of attacks since being ousted from power this year, a French colonel said. By nightfall, no direct fighting had been reported between French forces and the Islamist fighters from Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa. The French troops were proceeding cautiously because a French hostage being held by the militants is believed to be in the area. France has been talking about reducing its presence in its former colony in the coming months, but also has said it aims to keep about 1,000 soldiers there.

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