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France wrapping up military operation in Mali

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PARIS (AP) - France's defense minister says the French military operation in Mali "fulfilled its mission" and is being reorganized into a regional force against terrorists across northwest Africa.

France intervened 18 months ago after al-Qaida-linked extremists seized a swath of the former French colony. Operation Serval was repeatedly extended to help Mali's government regain control, and is expected to end soon - perhaps this week when French President Francois Hollande visits Africa.

While French-led forces dispersed extremists and the U.N. established a peacekeeping force, sporadic violence continues. Meanwhile, concern has mounted about links between Mali's fighters and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Europe-1 radio Sunday that the French force will become a 3,000-strong regional operation focused on fighting terrorists and based in Mali, Chad and Niger.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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