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Hollande visits French and Malian troops in Gao


French President Francois Hollande visited on Friday French and Malian troops engaged in the fight against jihadists at their operational base of Gao, in northern Mali.

President Hollande arrived shortly after 15H00 (local time) accompanied by his Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Hollande, who was welcomed by the head of the Malian government Modibo Keïta, is in the west African country to attend an Africa-France summit which kicked off on Friday.

The visit by the French head of state in Mali comes four years after the start of Operation Serval on 11 January 2013.

The international intervention which was initiated by France has put an end to the progression of jihadist armed groups linked to al-Qaeda, in northern Mali and which threatened to sweep over to the capital Bamako.

To this day, some 4,000 French troops remain in the country and across the Sahel region.

In a bid to help crush the jihadist threat, France has trained more than 20,000 African soldiers every year since 2013, according to a French diplomatic source.

By 2020 the number of French-trained troops is expected to reach 25,000 a year.

The training drive aims to minimise the need for direct military interventions in African conflicts, such as those launched in Mali and the Central African Republic in 2013.

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