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French minister says ‘several hundred’ Islamist militants killed in Mali

French minister says ‘several hundred’ Islamist militants killed in Mali London, Feb 6 : French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that `several hundred' Islamist militants have been killed since his country's troops launched an offensive in Mali last month.

Drian said they had been killed in airstrikes and direct combat with French troops.

France has an estimated 4,000 troops in Mali and officials from multilateral institutions and dozens of countries have been meeting in Brussels to discuss how to replace them.

According to the BBC, Drian said the last major town in northern Mali to remain in the hands of the rebels, Kidal, was now under French control.

He said that many militants died in French airstrikes on vehicles carrying fighters and materials, or in ground fighting in the town of Konna at the start of the campaign and later in the town of Gao.

Drian added that French troops had inflicted `great damage on the jihadist terrorist groups'.

According to the report, France has suffered only one fatality so far, a helicopter pilot killed at the beginning of the operation. (ANI)