50 rebels, French soldier killed in some of ‘heaviest fighting’ in Mali

Heavy fighting in northern Mali has left at least 50 rebel fighters and a French soldier dead, officials said Sunday, as Chad promised to prove its soldiers had killed two top Islamist militants.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for “caution” on Chad’s reports that its soldiers in Mali recently killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the mastermind of January’s assault on an Algerian gas plant that left 38 hostages dead, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) commander Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.

Le Drian also said a French soldier had died “in some of the heaviest fighting that we have carried out on Malian territory.” Both French and Malian officials said clashes had intensified in the region in recent days.

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