February 3, 2013 - 17:58 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - French warplanes pounded Islamist rebel camps in the far north of Mali, military sources said, hours after French President Francois Hollande visited the West African country, according to Reuters.
Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French army in Paris, said on Sunday, Feb 3, the overnight raids targeted logistics bases and training camps used by the al Qaeda-linked rebels to the north of the desert town of Kidal.
"These were important air strikes," Burkhard told Reuters.
He said the bombing raids took place around the settlement of Tessalit, close to the Algerian border, one of the main gateways into the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains where the rebels are believed to be hiding after fleeing major towns.
Malian military sources said French and Chadian troops had clashed with members of the Ansar Dine militant group in the region around Kidal on Saturday.
French attack helicopters and transport planes carrying special forces left the city of Gao to reinforce the French and Chadian contingent stationed at the airport in Kidal.
The town of Kidal itself is under the control of the pro-autonomy MNLA Tuareg rebel group, which occupied it after Ansar Dine fighters fled six days ago.
France has deployed 3,500 ground troops, fighter jets and armored vehicles in the three-week-old Operation Serval (Wildcat) which has broken the Islamists' 10-month-old grip on the towns of northern Mali, where they had violently imposed sharia law.