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Valls pledges war on jihadist 'barbarity' during Mali visit

French Prime Minister Manuel Vallswith Mali's President Modibo Keïta.
French Prime Minister Manuel Vallswith Mali's President Modibo Keïta. AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the fight against armed Islamists as a battle against barbarity on a visit to Mali where France has had troops fighting jihadists and separatists since 2013. He made the comments in Mali's capital Bamako, where he began a three-day tour of west Africa along with Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

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"Today reconciliation is in progress," Valls said, referring to the peace deal signed by the government and Tuareg rebels last year. "Liberty must be defended. France is fully engaged. It's in essence a battle of humanity against barbarity."

Dossier: War in Mali

The prime minister was speaking to members of the French community after meeting with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

"Despite the trials and dangers, you have stayed and others have joined you," he told them.

Valls was to visit Gao, the largest city in the north of the country, on Friday to meet French troops stationed there as part of the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane, which comprises 3,500 troops deployed in five countries - Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

Valls was to fly on to Burkina Faso.

The capitals of both countries have been hit by jihadist attacks recently.

Valls was due to meet the chief of the UN force, Minusma, on Friday, just days after a jihadist attack on its base killed seven Guinean peacekeepers, as well as the head of an EU military training mission in the country.

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