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French troops will remain in Mali until militants are eradicated- Macron
20 May 2017, 02:18 | Darnell Patrick
Macron in Mali's restive north for morale-boosting visit
France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, on Friday pledged that his country would step up in its fight against Islamist factions in northern and western Africa.
Mali's president expressed his gratitude toward France for its military intervention that began in 2013 after extremist groups overran the country's vast northern region.
In March, the three main jihadist groups in the region merged under the command of Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag-Ghaly, calling the new group Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin.
France has been hard hit by Islamist attacks, which have killed more than 230 people on its territory in the past two years. He said he had discussed Mali with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday and the two made a decision to "strengthen our cooperation further to help the countries of the region".
Over 4,000 French, UN, and Malian troops are stationed in five nations in the Sahel in West Africa, Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, in France's Operation Barkhane created to crack down on jihadists.
The German government earlier this year approved an expansion of the country's military deployment in Mali, with Berlin sending more helicopters to support the United Nations peacekeeping mission there and raising the maximum number of German soldiers from 650 to 1,000.
Visiting the French forces there was one of the first things Macron had promised to do during his presidential campaign if he was elected President.
Most of the west African extremist groups France is combating trace their origins to al Qaida's North Africa branch.
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Keita said the road is long, "but we are going forward and we will succeed".
He will also meet some of the 1,600 French soldiers stationed there, making it the largest base outside France.
"My desire in the framework of our military involvement in Africa is to do even more with Europe, more with Germany, but in a pragmatic manner", Macron told reporters during a visit to a French military base in the northern town of Gao.
The victims were soldiers and former fighters trying to stabilize the region after a 2015 agreement with the government.
More than 332 people were killed in 385 attacks in 2016, including 207 civilians in the north and center of Mali, the NGO said.
"I don't think Macron's arrival will change anything to our daily life", Ousmane Maiga, a resident of Gao, told The Associated Press.
The presence of French Development Agency (AFD) chief Remy Rioux in the president's entourage is taken as a sign that Macron wants to put more emphasis on economic development in its former colonies.
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