Handout shows three French Mirage 2000D fighter planes in flight over N'Djamena - Reuters
French warplanes are pounding camps and logistics bases of the al-Qaida-linked Islamists in Northern Mali.
Nearly 30 jets targeted the bases around the region of Tessalit near the Algerian border. The aerial bombardment took place hours after French President Francois Hollande paid a visit to the country hailing the efforts of the French troops.
"It was an important aerial operation to the north of the town Kidal and in the Tessalit region where we targeted logistical depots and Islamist training camps ... some 20 sites," a French army spokesperson in Paris told the Associated Press.
Reports suggest the French ground troops also confronted the Islamist rebels near the key town of Kidal. It is feared that the Islamists could be hiding in the mountainous regions near Kidal in order to strike back at the French and Malian forces.
The town of Kidal is controlled by the secular Tuareg group, MNLA. The French-led forces are looking to hold talks with the MNLA in order to secure the town from extremist Islamists.
"Never has a foreign intervention in Africa been as popular as the French one in Mali. The object of this war should be not just to liberate Mali but to free the whole Sahel from this menace, which threatens not just us but also Europe, France and the world," Mahamadou Issoufou, President of neighbouring Niger, told Radio France International.
Malian officials have so far been heaping praise on the French intervention in the landlocked West African nation.
"Faced with seasoned fighters whose arsenal must be destroyed, we wish the mission to continue. Especially given how important the aerial dimension is," Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly told the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche.
Coulibaly also urged France not to scale back its operation as he feared that it could pave the way for the Islamists to regain control of the troubled country. Hollande has already pledged that French forces will be present in Mali "as long as necessary".
Nearly 3,500 French troops are currently present in Mali apart from helicopters, warplanes and armoured vehicles. The first contingent of UN-backed African forces from Chad and Niger has already arrived in the country to assist the offensive against the rebels.
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