Mali government declares 10-day state of emergency

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French and Malian forces have killed about 10 suspected Islamist fighters during an operation in northern Mali’s mountainous Adrar des Ifoghas region, French army spokesman Gilles Jaron said on Tuesday.

Confirming comments made by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian earlier on Thursday, armed forces spokesman Gilles Jaron said the militants had been spotted by a drone.

Small groups of fighters loyal to Islamist groups including the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and al Qaeda in the Maghreb still operate in the desert region, carrying out periodic attacks.

France is winding down its troop presence in Mali to 1,000 soldiers as a 12,000-strong U.N. mission comes into force. However, Paris, which now has about 1,600 troops in Mali has said it will redeploy its forces across the region to counter Islamist militancy.

This as Mali government declared a 10-day state of emergency through the holidays after threats from unnamed militant groups.

Mali’s government released a communique on Monday saying the state of emergency started December 21. It prohibits large groups from gathering in public spaces and permits police to search people’s homes.

The call comes as Malians prepare to celebrate Christmas and the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, which usually includes gathering in the streets.

The government previously declared a state of emergency after the November 20 attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel that killed at least 20 people in the capital, Bamako.

Insecurity has gripped Mali since 2012 when a power vacuum saw Islamic extremists take control of the north.

A French-led military operation pushed extremists from major towns in 2013, but attacks continue.